Written By Esther Ben Ami, Editor-in-Chief
Lower House teachers Andy del Calvo and Matt Rohrer recently introduced Yondr cell phone pouches, which encase student cellphones and prevent their use for the length of class. The teachers did this with the vision of increasing productivity within their classrooms. Although it’s just been a few days since the start of the simulation, mixed reactions arose from the teachers’ procedures to raise the level of productivity and focus. Rohrer observes, “It’s created a sense of focus…I would say 95% of students do not have a problem.”
“I’m trying to create a cell phone free space,” del Calvo tells the Tribune. “I don’t believe that anybody, including myself, has enough self control to not check their phone if they receive a text.” Del Calvo also shares his own experience with Yondr pouches. “I went to this concert, and basically there were these Yondr pouches there. It was very different: before a concert often it’s a little bit quiet — everybody’s on their phones, and before this concert it was really loud, we talked to the person next to us, which you rarely do at a concert. It was just very different, and I thought: I wonder if this would work in my class?” Del Calvo proceeded to get his hands on the Yondr pouches and, alongside Rohrer, introduced the Yondr phone cases as a classroom norm. “Although it hasn’t become a part of classroom culture,” del Calvo says, “the space, so far, feels like there’s a lot less anxiety because students aren’t constantly on their phones.”
Del Calvo and Rohrer did admit that there were some students who were opposed to this new rule. Shelby, a Lower House student who preferred to only go by her first name, is one of del Calvo’s and Rohrer’s students and was brought to Mike Dunson’s office for refusing to put her phone in the Yondr pouch. She shared her views on the technology break with the Tribune: “I don’t agree with this new rule — we should have known beforehand, and not only that, we should be able to have access to our phones.” She explains how, “at least our parents” should be able to have a voice in the technology break, elaborating by illustrating a situation where a parent might text their child in school with an urgent, perhaps personal, message, as opposed to calling the school, because it makes the most sense to them to contact their child directly. She says she didn’t put her phone in the pouch because she “didn’t feel the need to.” When her teachers confronted her, she complied with turning off her phone, but refused to hand it to them so the phone could be locked away in the Yondr phone pouch.
Dunson, who sat alongside Shelby while she shared her thoughts, also contributed to the conversation. “One of the biggest concerns and complaints and annoyances with teachers is cellphones,” he states. Shelby acknowledges this, but says she would like to see a more lenient approach to this problem. She says she disapproves of the restrictive, Yondr phone pouch approach because students, including herself, may use their phone for academic purposes, such as taking a pictures of the teacher’s notes during lessons and lectures.
When Rohrer and del Calvo were confronted with student complaints, Rohrer explained how emergency situations are in fact typically not communicated via text messaging, “If there’s truly an emergency, like you need to come to the hospital this minute, then they [families] would contact the school.” Del Calvo reflected on the concepts of adolescent identity-development and the significance of teenagers being out of direct contact with their parents during school hours. “Teenagers are at a point in their life where they are defining, redefining, and evolving their identities, and part of that actually needs to be separate from their parents.” Del Calvo explains how, historically, schools have been a place for teenagers to discover who they are independent from their homes and families. Students being unable to communicate so freely with their parents during school hours is, in these teachers’ eyes, something positive.