An Open Letter to Parents who Text (or, I’d Text This to You, but it’s Too Long for SMS)

Disclaimer: one day I was sitting in class working with a student who was sitting in class and working on her phone (grr). She comes up to me and says “My mom wants you to read this text.” My jaw dropped and I could barely contain my anger and frustration. These are the things I wanted to rage-text back: #1–a text with a sick-face emoji is not how you sign your child out of school. #2–your child is identified as learning disabled, and you think it’s a good idea to distract her from her school work on top of all the difficulties she has to face on top of her LD struggles? #3–STOP TEXTING YOUR KID WHEN SHE’S IN CLASS!
With my rage in full-force, I wrote the following blog post. When my rage subsided, I reread it and decided I still felt the same and really liked it. So here it is:

Dear parents of my students,

Hi. How are you?

Actually, I don’t need to ask that, because I know how you are. And how do I know this? Because you texted your kid to let them know. You texted them in the middle of my lesson. Please know I really dig how you undermine my classroom rules and expectations by texting your kid when they should be learning, and then getting mad at them when they don’t respond.

Hey, I get it. School is not important. We can learn everything we need to know on our phones. And anyone who says school is about learning curriculum content and appropriate social interaction skills and behaviour (namely me and every other educator says this) is wrong. So who cares about teaching our kids to be respectful of rules and expectations and appropriate use of class time and choosing to save personal matters for personal time like break, recess, or lunch? If you don’t care about the rude and impolite behaviours being instilled in your kids, then I don’t care either.

I did, however, want to remind you that schools do still have a very dated and antiquated form of technology at their disposal. It’s called a land-line telephone (here, I’ll even go against my personal preference and link the Wikipedia article about land-line phones so you can read up on what they are). With this technology, you can call the school to talk to your kid, or even to someone about your kid! Shockingly (since these phones are so terribly old and out of date), you can even get connected to the exact classroom your kid is in to talk to your kid’s teacher. They can even call you! Unfortunately, you can’t text the teacher, but isn’t it nice to hear another person’s voice and have that direct connection to the person who is responsible for your child for 6 hours of their waking day?

Don’t worry; I can admit that sometimes we need our phones by our sides. Sometimes there are sucky things going on like a health issue or a sick relative, and you want to check in to make sure everything is ok. I get that. But, these extremes account for maybe 1% of students, 1% of the time. School would be a drastically different place if we were all dealing with health issues and sick relatives. We’d probably close the school. But, that’s not what’s happening, so…

Could I offer a suggestion? Maybe program your kid’s schedule into your phone so you know when is and isn’t a good time to text? Hint: the 300 minutes of class time = bad time to text, the transportation time to/from school = fine time to text, the 75ish minutes for break/recess/lunch = also a great time to text.

I would like to close with a little perspective. I would never ignore my students to text in class. I would get fired. You would never ignore your boss to text at work. You’d get fired. So why are we teaching these kids that it’s ok to ignore a person of authority to text whenever they feel like it? They’re going to get fired. Sure, they can’t get fired from school, but their grades can suffer, they can develop really bad habits/life-skills, and they can get detentions. And parents, please know, from the bottom of my heart, I would give you a detention in a heartbeat if I could.

Sincerely yours,

Ms. D

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