Technology is changing our world at a rapid rate. For a little while, a lot of schools took a zero tolerance approach to technology. This was fine in the days of flip phones when the only internet around was dial-up (sidebar: you know how I feel about flip-phones).
However, the usage and abilities of phones have changed dramatically in the past 10, even 5 years. Schools are coming to an understanding that proper use of technology has to a part of the curriculum, whether it’s on a phone, tablet or even computer. Teachers, both classroom teachers and substitute teachers, need to have their own personal approach to phones in the classroom, and make sure students are aware of and respect their technology rules.
(Last week I touched on my approaches to phones and technology in the classroom as the regular classroom teacher. This week, I will talk about my approach to phones and tech in the classroom as a substitute teacher.)
As the substitute teacher, I think technology is heart attack inducing. It opens up a world of creepy exploitation to us. There is a lot wrong with that. When I am in someone else’s classroom, I will:
- make sure I have a good understanding of the regular teacher’s expectations for phones and enforce those rules and expectations,
- continuously remind students to put their phones away and do some work (because it’s always going to be a battle),
- pay close attention to those students who think they can get away with breaking the rules when their regular teacher is gone, report back to the teacher in my note, and hope that the appropriate discipline is doled out,
- err on the side of caution when students ask to listen to music or use their phone as a calculator, to look something up, etc. If the teacher’s rules aren’t explicitly outlined in their plan, I’m going to assume it’s ok for them to use their phones for these things. I will, however, always tell students to keep their music volume low (and use headphones, obviously), do the math work and use the calculator just to check their work, remind them that researching something and posting their #ootd on Instagram are not the same thing, etcetera etcetera etcetera…
- have an understanding of the school’s cell phone policy, and enforce it (on top of the teacher’s rules) so that things remain consistent for the students, and easier for you because you’re not making rules up as you go (which students haaaate),
The biggest thing to look out for (and it is really unfortunate that this needs to be said, but it does) is students taking pictures or videos of you. A classroom with a substitute teacher can be a bit of a chaotic place: nothing to apologise for, that’s just a reality. In that chaos, though, you need to be on the look out not only for students using cell phones, but how they are using their phones. It has only happened once, but I had my picture taken by a student, and it was only because someone ratted on him that I found out. The school dealt with it quickly and appropriately; but it was sneaky, it was scary, and I felt violated by that student.
Let’s face it; often times, as a sub, you’re not looked upon favourably by the students you’re covering. You’re either a push-over or a b*tch. In the “good old days”, they would tell you to your face, whisper behind your back, and be done with it. These days, they have Snapchat, Instagram, text messaging, and a whole slew of apps designed to hide photos (why do we live in a world where people think these need to exist?! But they do exist so familiarise yourself. Hopefully you never need to use this information, but it’s better to be safe than sorry).
If you think that you are being photographed or recorded, you need to report it. Send the student to the office and let them deal with it there. Even if the student(s) wasn’t taking your picture, the principal or vice principal can deal with them being on their phone inappropriately. Following up with the teacher you were replacing or with the school itself is a good idea to make sure everything has been dealt with and the pictures/videos are gone.
TL:DR? Know the rules. Enforce the rules. Let students know it is very NOT ok to take your picture.