This was tannoy 1 on Tuesday, day 2 of the new jurisdiction. It caused groans.
The corridors, the walkway and the blocks are no phone zones
Don’t forget this simple rule also includes headphones
Things, as Mr Blair didn’t say, could only get worse. Changeover 2 cause people to bang their heads on desks, though I thought it a great improvement.
Help us keep a great big smile on all your teachers’ faces
By only using phones at social times in social spaces
This was followed by a specific warning at changeover 3. I think the scansion needs attention and there’s too much dangle in the second line.
Help us keep your phones and keep them firmly in your pocket
You don’t want to get to lunch when it’s allowed, but you have lost it.
He busked the next one but the final exhortation was perhaps the worst of all.
Thanks to all those students who can now go straight on home
For the rest, attend the green canteen for some harsh words and your phone
See how we model creativity to the children? I shall enter him for the Forward Prize for Poetry next year.
Changing a rule in school is an interesting process. It takes us a long time to decide and we have to argue amongst ourselves for weeks until we come up with an agreement. Children then have to be warned and the infrastructure put into place. In this case, consistent instructions, seven assemblies, tutor group scripts, padded reusable envelopes with labels, lists of names, boxes to put them in, safe places to store them, return mechanisms, FAQs with staff and, after a pilot week, tweaks to the system and a clear message for parents in the newsletter. That’s the easy part.
The harder part is actually changing our daily actions. In this case, moving the ‘no phones’ rule back from the classroom door to the outside door, and developing a consistent and safe way of removing offending items and retraining their owners. After that we work through the ones who just forgot, the ones who thought it wouldn’t happen to them, the ones who thought they’d test a new system until we’re left with the dogged recidivists who can’t let it go. That’ll take a while.
It’s been interesting to see how annoyed some older students have been by this. Unusually, we made the new rule fit post-16 students too, except for subjects where teachers need them to use their phones, or where it has long been allowed in a very thoughtful and controlled manner. We thought long and hard about this, worrying that years 12 and 13 would feel affronted by being treated the same as the younger ones – but then decided that the new rule was whole school.
Why? Because we try to model a way of living in community that will help young people understand the world and change it for the better. While we don’t demonise phones as such, we were losing too much lesson time arguing over them and that was in the sixth form too. We decided collectively that we weren’t helping our young people learn a more sensible way to be, and we’ve changed our minds.
And we’ve changed the way the adults act too. We’re not checking our phones all the time or walking along looking at them, except for the safeguarding team. We’re all in this together, because phones are addictive to adults as well as children and we can all demonstrate a bit of self-control.
The poet Nick Drake wrote about the ancient Aztec rubber ball game, in the voice of a young missionary priest who becomes captivated by it. He describes the ball:
I have it now
In the palm of my hand.
It is a small, dark ball, warm
As an egg, or a fallen star,
And decorated with skulls;
It is heavy as a stone, and yet
What spirit moves it? Whose god
Created such a wonder
That leaps for joy? And why
Does my body tremble with delight
To play the game again?
Pray for me, now –
For I find I cannot let it go.
Isn’t that like a phone? There’s a fear in the last line of being overtaken by something that you chose to do but can’t stop. That’s always terrified me. I think our new rule is both moderate and humane and I hope it helps young people to put their phones down from time to time outside school too. Perhaps to play football or write poetry, who knows?
Changing your mind after reflection and investigation is a sign of good learning and a hallmark of adult life. Our legislators could learn from this.