Cell Phone Policy

The dedicated readers who have persisted through the horrific recent lack of blogginess on my part, will recall that at the start of the semester, I told my students that if their cell phone rang in class, I would answer it and cause them some slight embarrassment that they may wish to avoid.

Well, Friday, I got the chance to put my money where my mouth was.

We were having a (rather sluggish) discussion about the causes of the Civil War, when one of my favorite student's phone rang. The whole class looked at him, then they looked at me. He looked at who was calling, rolled his eyes, and said, "It's Jane,"* and smilingly handed the phone over to my outstretched and eagerly awaiting hand.

"John's* Phone," I said.

In a slightly bitter and hostile tone, a young woman's voice replied, "Is John there?"

I said, "He's in class right now and can't talk. He'll have to call you back."

She said, in an increasingly bitchy tone, "Well, he can't call me back. I'm not at a place where he can return the call. Can you just tell him that Jane called?"

I said, "Sure." Then I paused for dramatic effect and said, "This is his professor."

Dead silence. And then, " OH.... MY.... GOD...."

I cheerfully told her I'd give John the message and then handed the phone back to John, who was clearly getting a kick out of the whole thing.

The other students were looking on with varying degrees of amusement -- since John was ok, it was clearly fine. And, I have to say, it was probably the most fun I've had in a sluggish discussion on the Civil War. The other students got a kick out of it, and John was definitely enjoying himself too. And, then, they all jumped right back into discussion.

It was clearly a good technique for dealing with this issue. But, without a doubt, the best part was the fact that Jane thought I was "Another Woman" with access to John's phone while she was busy on a trip out of the country and then realizing that she had been treating a Professor like a skank who was trying to steal her boyfriend.

*Names have been changed to protect the slightly innocent.


At 10:02 PM La Lecturess said...

Love it, love it, love it! The sheer pleasure of that story alone is making me consider implementing the same policy next semester.

Glad your student & class were so cool with it, too.

At 10:57 AM Suz said...

I am old enough that I remember this policy as applied to notes passed in class! Glad it worked so well. Wonder if any other phones will ring this semester?

At 5:49 PM Porkorama said...

Brilliant!!! Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

So...uh...what do you do when it's your own phone that rings?

At 12:50 PM Stewgad said...

I tell the students that if my phone rings, someone else gets to answer it and gets to tell the person calling me that I can't come to the phone because I'm teaching. Fair's fair. But, I do cheat. I never bring my phone to class.

At 3:24 PM RageyOne said...

Classic! I love it! Glad your student was a good sport about it. I wonder what Jane said to him later on...

At 9:46 AM academic coach said...

Wonderful anecdote.

And puh-lease don't be so apologetic about your absence from the academogosphere or I'll have to seek absolution twice as hard.

At 11:23 PM Jacob said...

I have had the same policy in my classes for a couple of years. I almost dropped it though after one young woman's phone rang with her boyfriend at the other end. I answered, he asked for her, I said I was her prof and she was in class. He said, "Oh, well I was calling to break up with her...I'll call back later".

At 4:20 PM Scott Eric Kaufman said...

For the record, I've had this policy for years and the students have always responded to it like this. Doesn't matter if it's the best student in the class or worst, they always feel like the joke is on the person calling, not them. I would attribute this to the popularity of "Punk'd," but somone warned me this very morning never to say that word again...so instead I'll say that the students know they'll get a good story out of it and that it'll be at someone else's expense. So answer away, all ye teachers of inconsiderate students...

At 9:32 PM Scott Eric Kaufman said...

For the record, that pretentious "for the record" is a ghost of revisions past and not the equivalent of indie-rock priority arguments. "Yeah? Well I bought the single 'Box Elder' before you even knew what a guitar was!" Sorry about that. Will be more careful in the future.

At 11:58 AM Anonymous said...

I have the same policy. "Hi, Amy's Mom. This is Amy's professor. She's in class right now; is this an emergency? No? Then can she call you back in about 25 minutes? Thanks." One day my phone rang. Oops. It was Jane (my best friend from college) 75 students in a lecture hall got to yell "HI JANE!" and then one in the front row went through the "Emergency? No? Can she call you back in 1/2 hour?" *headdesk* - Dr. Pretenured Anonymous


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