It is not an overly complex solution to a serious problem afflicting Oak Park and River Forest High School – and all other high schools. But a month into the school year, it seems to be working largely because it is being implemented across every classroom.
The problem? Cellphones being carried by students into classrooms, being used by students during class time, and distracting those students, other students and driving teachers nuts. In recent years individual teachers have tried to enforce prohibitions on cellphones in their classrooms but, with no consistent policy in place, it was a losing battle.
Starting this year, the recommendation of the school’s Cell Phone Committee has been put in place and it is stunningly simple and, so far, effective. When a student enters a classroom they put their phone into the pocket of a canvas organizer hanging on a wall. And there it stays. Kids pick them up on the way out.
It helps that the committee surveyed parents and found nearly three-quarters agreed that cellphones should be used only in an emergency during class time. Teachers were also surveyed and 96.5% of them were in favor of cellphone-free class periods. Students, who had been expected to vocally object, have gone along with the program.
Teachers interviewed by Journal reporters are ecstatic at the early results. Far fewer distractions during class, greater student focus on the work, more involved discussions among teachers and students.
Dan Wolman, a history teacher and committee member, was recently named “teacher of the month” for the lead role he played in pushing this concept forward. Good job.