Yesterday, I Took Steps to Take My Classroom Back

It was frightening, yet empowering simultaneously. Let me tell you what I did.

Photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash

I said to a friend, “I just did something and it feels so good. Today, I made an announcement: mobile phones are banned in my room.” That earned me a huge smile and a “Good for you!”

“I have an announcement to make,” I said after the second bell.

“Due to recent developments in social media abuse and cyberbullying, which have (unfortunately) happened in our school, I am banning mobile phones in this classroom. The TikTok challenges, the Snapchat snaps in class, the selfies and videos I’ve witnessed… all these must stop.

In one class, there were snickers and knowing smiles. It was as if they were saying, “Yeah, whatever. It’s funny, get over it.”

“So, this is what is going to happen. Starting Tuesday, after your four-day weekend, you will find a mobile-phone organizer and storage bags upon your arrival. Take a bag, put your mobile device inside, and put it in the organizer.

The snickers stopped. The smiles disappeared.

“Now, if you feel you can control yourself, you can keep it on your person. However, if I see it, I have the right to confiscate it. I’m not going to touch it, though. Instead, I’m going to hand you a slip of paper that states you are taking your phone to the office to turn in because you were using your phone in class. Then, I will call the office to let them know you are coming.”

That stopped the thoughts of refusing to give up their phones to me. I really do not want to touch anyone’s phone.

“Why am I doing this?”

“Well, it’s simple. This might make me sound weak, and I don’t care. I have been bullied all my life, from the way I look to my last name.

Please, take a moment to consider my last name. Go ahead and giggle. Everyone does.

“I can’t take it anymore.

“This room is my safe space, and I want to make it a safe space for you too. I want to stop the bullying, physical or cyber. I’m tired of it.”

“Any questions?”

As you can imagine, there were no questions.

Six Times, I Made the Same Speech

Each time, I felt stronger. In the last two classes of the day, the students reacted with several questions that made me smile.

  • “Ms. E, who’s bullying you? I want their names.” No, I did not give any names.
  • “Why would someone make fun of your last name? That’s just dumb.” Indeed, but it’s been happening my whole married life, in business settings and school settings.
  • “Why do people think this stuff is funny?” Exactly. I really don’t know. However, if you read a recent article by Dr. Deborah M. Vereen-Family Engagement Influencer, you may confirm some of your suspicions, as I did.

I am so grateful for those students and their support. I am so grateful for the 95% of my roster who doesn’t do terrible things with technology. To those students, I promised to do my best to make class so interesting that the time will fly and they will not miss their devices. Eek, please help me fulfill that promise!

Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to your thoughts.

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