In the Middle of Class, a Different Kind of Text

My weekend got off to a marvelous start. I got to confiscate a phone.

I had been monitoring the class my master teacher had me subbing — the same seniors I see every day, except now I get paid to do it — and I was busy making sure the little rapscallions spent their time reading reading. I was also brushing up on my use of the passive voice, but that’s neither here nor there.

Rather than read, one student — who, coincidentally, was tardy to class that day — kept talking. After a few uses of the glare I called her on it. Her friend decided to step in on her behalf.

“We aren’t doing anything, anyway. What do you expect?” she said. “People are going to talk. I think we should get out early.”

I expected that non sequitur — I am a sub, after all, and students love to make any argument on Sub Day that includes “we should” and ends with “get out early.” No dice, kiddo.

What got me was that she was text messaging while she talked. Strictly speaking, I didn’t see her phone as she was clever enough to hide it under the desk, but she was at least looking at her lap very intently, and was scooted back from the table just enough so that the right angle would show a cell phone. Her book lay open on the desk.

As per the class rule, I confiscated her cell phone — she seemed surprised that I saw through her ruse — with a promise to return it the following class day, a phrase which here means “on the other side of a weekend.”

She issued a protest. I told her to stay after class to talk about it, and she did.

“I have to call to get a ride to work. We don’t have a landline.”

“Nobody else in your family has a cell phone?”


“Do you have friends?”

“I can’t use their phones. Their phones don’t have my mom’s number.”

Caught her in a lie. She can wait until Monday.

Moral of the story? Maintain healthy skepticism toward excuses. More than a few are false.


  1. She kept arguing at me, apparently unsure which style would get me to crack. She exhausted everything from her penitent crying angle to her penitent anger angle.

    I couldn’t just pretend to start reading a book to get her to stop arguing her same points over and over. I had to actually leave the room and turn off the light before she stepped away from the teacher desk.

  2. The smartest move of this whole thing: telling her to stay after class to talk about it. That is WAY better than arguing about in right then in front of an audience of her peers, where she has to be sure to save face.

  3. CW

    You should be careful here. If you dropped off the phone to the school office before leaving for the weekend, great move. If you’re holding it yourself, you may be asking for trouble. The student doesn’t have a “right” to use the phone in class, but since it’s not your phone, you don’t really have the “right” to keep it over the weekend either. Best practice: take the phone, explain to the student what you are going to do and why, walk the phone down to the office, and let the principal sort out the consequences. It’s not worth your time…nor the potential trouble.

  4. That’s my master teacher’s move. She has a file folder filled with confiscated piercings and cell phones.

    I’m hesitant to take it to the principal — I’m not sure I want to give him more work.

  5. dkzody

    I never keep a phone, or other electronic device. I either give it back at the end of the period, or if the child has been reprimanded before, the device goes in an envelope and goes to the vice principal’s office. They call the parent who has to come in and get it. I’ve been in the office when there are parents in there screaming like banshees about their kids’ phone and how awful we are for taking it. The kids are just like their parents.

  6. For that very reason, I prefer to deal with the kids. At least over them I have some authority.

  7. My plan is to invent a portable cell phone jamming device to be turned on while class is in session. I considered a mini EMP, but then I realized that it would prevent me from executing those wondrous web 2.0 lesson plans.

  8. Maybe we should keep our vital equipment in a lead box when we set off the EMP, then pull it out once it’s set off.

  9. CW

    Neal, I will happily be your first customer!

  10. Neal — that is hilarious! I’m sure you’ll have a lot of customers: schools, churches, theaters, etc, etc. Get a patent on that thing! 🙂

  11. $$$$$

    If only I hadn’t majored in useless old history…

  12. Cell jamming devices exist, but they are not cheap. They jam all phones, though, including your own.

    Most districts here in North Texas require phone confiscation, to be taken to the principals. Second offense, a $15.00 fine and parent must come retrieve. Third offense, the phone is gone until June.

    Of course, having a phone during certain tests means no graduation. And still they text. Go figure.

  13. Actually, some jammers are almost affordable. Better check with your district to make sure they’re legal:

    Editor’s Note: Don’t click on this link. My Firefox had immediate memory issues, either by design or poor design. The link remains for the sake of preserving comment sanctity.

  14. Ancient Bearded One

    I agree with MPullen. Great way to defuse the situation, taking it from a contest of wills with audience to a situation where you’re the boss.

    As where the cell phone gets kept, you have to follow whatever policy has been set by the district or school. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any kind of uniform policy over cell phones and such. Mu daughter’s public high school bans phones from classrooms even if they’re off with daily confiscation for first offense, confiscation until June for second, and suspension (if I remember correctly) and June confiscation for the third. The form I signed doesn’t tell me where the phones get kept. Thankfully, I’ve never had occasion to know.

    Don’t buy cell phone jammers. Using them is illegal in the US and expose you to criminal and civil penalties. The cell phone bands belong to the exclusive use of the providers that lease them. No exception. One concert hall found out that even installing RF shields or absorbers in a public space is forbidden. When I manufactured equipment for the industry I had to make sure our manufacturing line couldn’t affect service and had to get permission to use the pilot tones from the nearby base stations. If you want to block cell phones in your calssroom, it is legal in Japan.

  15. For the record, the use of a cell phone jammer/EMP device was a joke. Still… maybe EMPs are legal? Time to start working on lead computer cases!

  16. You say that, Neal, now that the NSA’s on your case. Nice try, but I don’t think any of us are fooled.

    Good to see you around, Bearded One. It’s been a while. (When you post a comment, I see the e-mail you post with. I’m so clever.)

  17. Hannah Baxter

    The texting has a serious problem in my classes, but it’s far worse now that I’m a second semester senior. The clicking, beeping, vibrating and giggling is a nuscence and a distraction. It’s like there’s no self control for these kids. Just wait till after class, or even, God forbid, talk to them in person! AAHHH!

    Good job for you. Take the technology, and you will get more respect from the people who find it annoying.

    Quick note: Be sure not to let girls have purses on their desk. That’s the most common trick I’ve seen. Guys just have the phone in their lap, but girls seem to have a preference for texting in or behind their purses.

  18. You’d be surprised how many backpacks I see on desks. It’s like they don’t realize how obvious that is. Kids.

  19. we ship cell phone jammers to the USA

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