I made a new rule in my classroom: If you need to use your phone during the break, please step outside. For all but the last month of the 30+ years I’ve been teaching public speaking, the 10-minute break would be filled with conversation, laughter, and movement.
But in the past month, break-time became silent-time as people instantly reached for their phones and remained in their seats with heads bent, silently scrolling through their e-mail. This thwarted what my breaks are meant to be: opportunities to build friendships, explore business endeavors, and enjoy rejuvenating camaraderie.
Do I have the right to keep people off their phones? No. But I do have the right to keep phone use out of my classroom, even during the break.
Last Friday I announced my new rule with a clear explanation about its origin and purpose. My students readily agreed, and during the break only two of ten briefly stepped outside. The rest behaved like the sociable people we truly are when given half a chance.