How 'cellphone jail' is curbing class distractions at one high school

Credit: Giphy

They didn’t have cellphones when I was growing up.

And there you have it: I officially sound like my mother.

I grew up in the ’80s, when MTV launched (remember when MUSIC was on that channel?), and words like ringtone, phone tag, drag-and-drop and plug and play were being added to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, for Pete’s sake.

I’m now mom to two teens who attend Skyline High School in Mesa, Ariz. My youngest son shared the inventive measures teachers were taking to eliminate distractions a few weeks ago when the school year began.

One of those ideas is “cellphone jail,” as students affectionately refer to it. The pouches crafted from plastic shoe organizers are numbered to correspond to desk numbers and hang inside the doors of several classrooms at their high school.

When I finally saw the image below for myself, I wanted to know more. My sons, Aidan and Jared Killeen, happily obliged to go “on record” in this Q&A.

How it works

Upon entering a classroom, students are required to place their cellphones in the pouch that corresponds with their seat number.

The phone remains in the numbered pouch until the end of class.

Phones placed in the pouch are also a method of keeping attendance.

Credit: Jared Killeen

“At first, I considered the ‘cellphone jail’ to be a violation of the few rights I have,” said Jared, my 15-year-old sophomore.

But now, “It’s become casual. The time in class seems like it’s getting shorter and shorter, so you really never notice and it’s not that big of a deal,” he said. “Some kids don’t even put their phone in the pocket.”

Aidan, my 16-year-old senior, suggested “some kids put their phone cover in the pocket and hope they won’t get caught; they do eventually.”

What about the few kids who don’t have a smartphone? “They talk to the teacher and say ‘hey, I don’t have a phone, so can I put my ID in the pocket, or something else of value?’ ”

Q&A: Mom interviews sons

Mom: Do you think cellphones are a major distraction?

Jared: Definitely. There are a few students who are constantly on their phones, and they wonder why they’re failing classes.”

Aidan: I think cellphones are a major distraction in the classroom, and I know that for a fact.

Something you need to know, and it’s comedic, is the paper-bag system.

They allow you to have your phone, but if you use it irresponsibly, they take it, put it in a paper bag, staple it shut and leave it by you, on your desk, right in front of you, so you don’t have to worry about being away from it.”

Credi: Giphy

So, how are students reacting?

Aidan: Well, this girl was on her phone — she never pays attention in class — she’s on her phone all the time… and the one time that she did get caught, she interrupted the whole class, and my teacher came up to her desk with a paper bag and said “alright, you know the rules” and proceeded to take her phone, put it in the bag and staple it shut.

Jared: Everyone laughs and it’s funny.

Aidan: Everyone’s a good sport about it, except…there’s kids who throw a fit when you so much as touch their phones.

Aidan: It’s a good system. It really is.

Wendy: So, would you say the pouch and paper-bag methods are working?

Aidan: I would say they definitely work, because in those classes that don’t use these systems, students have free reign and nothing gets done.

How many classes are using these methods?

Aidan: I have two that do the paper bag and one more that does pouches.

Jared: The paper, I have one; the pouches, I have one. So, altogether, two.

Aidan: The reason the paper-bag system works so well is because students will think twice about getting their phone out, because they don’t want to get “paper-bagged” again.

Credit: Giphy

Wendy: Why?

Aidan: Because it’s embarrassing. It shows you’re pretty irresponsible.

Wendy: Wait, one more question. Have your phones ever had to be taken away and placed in cellphone jail?

Aidan: No.

Jared: No.

Aidan: Well, we put them in there when we get there as a means of insurance — for everyone. I hope everyone does it because it works so well. It ensures that the students are working, and the teachers don’t have to patrol. Because that’s what they do.

In classes where they don’t have that system, they’re just always on patrol, like “hey, put your phone away,” It’s kind of sad, really, they’ve got more stuff to do.

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