As times change, so do the challenges teachers face in the classroom. And for some, the biggest issue may be students’ attachment to their cell phones.

Screenshot/WCVB News

As KUNC News reports, with more students bringing their smartphones to school, teachers are finding it a challenge to keep discipline and get students to pay attention in class. As Tony Patelis, a high school history teacher in Massachusetts, told KUNC:

“You can see that they’re not listening to you. They’re looking down, and they tell me they’re checking the time, even though the clock is on the wall.”

Faced with the problem of student focus — not to mention the social issues that seem to accompany kids and cell phones — one school decided to fight fire with fire. City on a Hill Circuit Street charter school in Boston introduced a high tech pouch that locks away cell phones during the school day, according to KUNC.

Starting this school year, as students enter the school building at the beginning of the day, they’re met by an administrator with a specially-designed pouch. The student hands over the cell phone, which is secured in the pouch and handed back. The pouch has a high-tech lock (similar to a retail anti-theft device) that can only be undone at the end of the day using a special tool.

The students get to keep their phones all day, but they can’t unlock them and retrieve them from the pouch until dismissal time.

Principal DeOtis Williams Jr. told WCVB News they introduced the policy as a response to a growing problem with student cell phone use:

“We noticed in previous years that there has been an increase of cell phone use, cyberbullying, using phones in class under the table. They are more engaged in cell phones than being in the present moment.”

And for the most part, the new policy has been a success … at least as far as the teachers and staff are concerned.

Math teacher Joanie Decopain says she’s noticed the students seem more engaged in class. What’s more, she hasn’t had to repeat herself as often. One Spanish teacher told WCVB:

“I have less problems losing students to their phones, texts, whatever.”

Unsurprisingly, many students aren’t happy about the rule. Some view the phone as a necessity. And freshman Rijkaard Trenteetun told KUNC he found it insulting that the school is managing students in this way:

“This is a college prep school. We should have responsibility … to take care of ourselves. And if you want to use [your phone in class,] use it, but at the end of the day you’re going to have the bad grade.”

However, not all students dislike the policy. Some say it has helped the social atmosphere in the school and helped them decrease their phone use. Senior Yalena Martinez told KUNC:

“Oh my gosh, all my friends would be like on their phones during lunch, and I was just sitting there staring out the window, waiting for a conversation to spark up. But now, like, we talk a lot more.”

Like the students, parent reactions to the policy seem to be divided. On a Facebook post about the rule from WMUR-TV, reactions ranged from applause to annoyance and disapproval.

Williams says he’s heard the arguments from both sides, but he’s pleased with how the policy is working in his school. So for the time being, students will continue to lock up their phones every morning. As he told KUNC:

“Like my mom always used to tell me, ‘Kids know what they want but not what they need.’ We know what the students need. [They] need to be present in the moment and to make healthy choices.”

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