Page 10 - 2018 Annual Teachers Guide
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Ohdz141387 New Teacher_Teachers Resource-v2.indd 1 Distractions That Interrupt Learning 6/18/14 2:16 PM BAILEY LAUERMAN
by: Tony Riehl
Omaha Zoological Society Education
Ohdz141387
Pub: Teachers Resource Guide Color: CMYK Size: 10" x 5" (1/2 page)
I learned early on with cell phones, that when you ask a student to hand you their phone, it very of- ten becomes confrontational. A cell phone is a very personal item for some people.
To avoid the confrontation I created a “distraction box” and lumped cell phones in with the many other distraction that students bring to class. These items have changed over time, but include “fast food” toys, bouncy balls, Rubics cubes, bobble heads, magic cards, and the hot item now are the  dget cubes and  dget spinners.
A distraction could be a distraction to the individual student, the other students or even a distraction to me. On the  rst day of the year I explain to my stu- dents that if I make eye contact with them and point to the distraction box, they have a choice to make. If they smile and put the item in the box, they can take the item out of the box on the way out of the room. If they throw a  t and put the distraction in the box, they can have it back at the end of the day. If they refuse to put the distraction in the box, they go to the of ce with the distraction.
On the  rst day of the year we even practice smiling while we put an item in the box. The interaction is always kept very light and the students really are co- operative. It has been a few years since an interac- tion actually became confrontational, because I am not asking them to put the item in my hand. I even have students sometimes put their cell phone in the box on the way in the door because they know they are going to have trouble staying focused.
This distraction box concept really has changed the atmosphere of my room. Students understand what a distraction is and why we need to limit dis- tractions. We even joke sometimes because the box isn’t big enough to put “Billie” in the box.
What Tony’s “distraction box” does very well:
It makes the positive statement that “we’re in class to work with as few distractions as possible.” It isn’t a negative statement about any particular distraction. Great mission statement.
Speci cally, it doesn’t single out cell phones. The
reality is that cell phones are only one kind of tech- nology students will bring to school, and digital technology is only one distractor out of many. Tony notes that “these items have changed over time, but include fast food toys, bouncy balls, Rubik’s cubes, bobble heads, magic cards, and the hot items now are the  dget cubes and  dget spinners.”
It acknowledges differences between students. What distracts you might not distract me. My cell phone distracts my learning so it goes in the box. Your cell phone helps you learn so it stays on your desk.
It builds rather than erodes the relationship be- tween teachers and students. Cell phone policies often encourage teachers to become detectives and students to learn to evade them. None of this does any good for the working relationship be- tween teachers and students. Meanwhile, Tony de- scribes a policy that has “changed the atmosphere of my room,” a policy in which students and teach- ers are mutually respected and mutually invested.
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