By: Ibbe Ashruf
It’s third period, the bell rings, and students place their silenced iPhones into Mr. Matthew Baum's New Balance shoe box, a dismal graveyard of smart devices, useless for the next seventy minutes. In prior years, only a few faculty like Mr. Dallas Jacobs and Mr. Jeff Gouline implemented it in their classes. But after their policy was mentioned in a faculty meeting, the idea has taken most Upper School teachers by storm; all students in classes with this policy must now place their mobile devices into a cardboard box before class starts. Though these boxes guarantee that students won’t be distracted by their phones, they also establish a weak foundation for relationships between students and teachers.
These cell phone boxes create an environment rooted in low expectations and no accountability for students. Before the class even begins, students are not given a chance to prove their maturity and ability to resist temptation of using their phone. Mr. Baum uses this policy in his classes and said, “I think the goal is to limit distraction, I think it is the rare person, adult or 15-16 year old that can sort of resist a distraction... the goal is to not dangle the forbidden fruit and see if you can not grab it but rather not have it there at all.”
By taking a student’s cell phone, his personal property, the teacher can eliminate any form of potential misuse in their classroom environment. But if a student were to be distracted by their mobile phone, would they not be distracted on a laptop computer? Is it not easier to be distracted on a computer, a device whose misuse is more difficult to be detected by a teacher? And what if these devices were to be damaged while in the teacher’s possession, or if the devices were to be lost or forgotten?
In reference to this situation, Mr. Dan Christian said, "When I first came to Gilman, Mr. Finney, the headmaster at the time, told me that I can leave the room and the boys unsupervised during a test because we trust in Gilman boys, and using a cell phone box is just another way of robbing Gilman boys the opportunity to practice trustworthiness. The best way to practice trustworthiness is to trust people."
The cell phone boxes do not give students the chance to practice being honorable and trustworthy, and according to Mr. Christian, "Taking away the property of the students, something I'm not comfortable with, seems contradictory to the Gilman Five calligraphed on the stairwell wall.”
Although teachers should manage their classrooms how they want to, I implore Gilman teachers to rethink why they use this policy. And to teachers, I ask this question: Is peace of mind really worth losing the opportunity to instill the values that Gilman prides itself on? As members of a community who believe in Gilman and its principles, we must be able to have higher expectations and confidence in Gilman boys regardless of temptation. I strongly hope that Gilman faculty will give boys the opportunity to “set the bar high,” as mature and responsible young men.