Earlier this month I wrote a post here critical of having students use cellphones in the classroom and shared why we banned their used during the school-day at my inner-city school.
In that same post I just briefly mentioned that this year we also banned iPods from the school, though I didn’t go into the reasons why. Jim Peterson, an exceptional Assistant Principal at my school, recently explained the reasons for the ban in an email to staff, and I thought I’d share them in this follow-up post.
One reason, he wrote, was theft. Cellphones and iPods have been the two most frequently stolen items at our school. I can personally attest to the disruption, tension, and fights that can result from this problem.
Another reason for the iPod ban was safety. Jim writes “On a regular basis, administrators and monitors would have to chase down a student in the hall who could not hear them calling because he or she had the music cranked.” I, too, have directly experienced this problem.
Lastly, he writes about “Discipline: Faculty, monitors and admin used to have to spend time giving detentions, Saturday schools and suspensions for iPod-related incidents.” I’m very confident in my ability to engage students, and feel like I have excellent relationships with them. However, even though I never gave any kind of official consequence for a student listening to music when he/she was supposed to be doing classwork, on occasion it did happen. When it did, a quick private conversation worked fine. However, I’ve been pretty lucky in that I have generally either taught all ESL classes (where classroom management is really not an issue) or small double-period classes of mainstream students. If I, as many of our teachers have to do, had to teach five different classes each day with thirty students each, I know I would have quite a few students facing many challenges that even engaging content and good teaching could not solve alone, and being able to avoid one more possible problem by banning iPods would sound good to me.
And, yes, I do understand that iPods could have an effective educational use. When I was a community organizer in my nineteen year career prior to becoming a public school teacher, we would talk about the “world as it is” and “the world as we would like it to be” (Barack Obama has used that contrast in some of his speeches as well). We want to always strive towards “the world as we would like it to be.” In our inner-city high school, though, sometimes we have to make compromises with “the world as it is.”