Help! My Principal Backtracked on His Cell Phone Ban Due to Parent Pressure

Dear We Are Teachers,

My principal made the announcement that our middle school would be banning phones altogether next year. Teachers, admin, and staff were thrilled. Parents and students were immediately outraged at the cell phone ban. Apparently, there’s been so much backlash that our principal announced at our faculty meeting that he will allow phones between classes and during lunch. That is our policy now, which students totally disregard. How can we convince him that this is worth doubling down on? It would make teaching a hundred times easier next year.

—Grow a spine, principal mine

Dear G.A.S.P.M.,

A cell phone ban wouldn’t just make teaching easier, it would make school a safer and better place for kids. We know that cell phones and social media are hurting kids physically, mentally socially, and academically. It’s making them anxious, too, as we noted in our interview with youth anxiety expert and author Dr. Jonathan Haidt. One of his guidelines or recommendations is for schools to enact cell phone bans. You’re right to be worried and paying attention.

Consider a few things with this reverse cell phone ban:

  1. I would bet the “decision” to walk it back was a “recommendation” from the superintendent. Even if you get petition signatures from every teacher in the building, it may not make a difference if the superintendent asked your principal to quell the mutiny.
  2. If parents opposed a total cell phone ban, maybe they would be more amenable to Yondr pouches. These allow students access to their phone before and after school, so the concern about safety/transportation is alleviated.

The good news is that this summer, more states will likely push through legislation banning phones in schools. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that yours will be among them.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I made it a priority to relax this summer and disconnect from work, but I’m having a hard time turning off my teacher brain! Our school announced that each teacher will host a new club every quarter, so I’m mentally planning for that. I can’t stop worrying about the new textbook rollout. And while I don’t want to be planning, I’m also stressing out a little bit that I’m not planning and getting behind! What should I do?

—you Can take the teacher out of school …

Dear Y.C.T.T.T.O.O.S.,

What does it say about me that I have never had a hard time turning off my work brain? Ha! (I do, however, find it impossible to turn off my Anxious Brain, so I understand your situation.)

I love these suggestions from our former advice columnist on a similar question. I also think it’s a good idea to reevaluate your desire to disconnect. Do you really want to totally disconnect this summer and not think about school at all? Or do you wish you could think about school and plan but in a more limited and healthy way?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered for either situation:

If you’d rather completely disconnect and not think about school at all:

Gently help your brain refocus. If you find yourself slipping into a mind tunnel about your new prep, don’t beat yourself up. Talk to your brain gently, the way you’d talk to a friend or a toddler who made an earnest mistake. Say to yourself, “Thank you, brain. It makes sense that I’m thinking about a job that’s important to me. But right now, I give you permission to let go. Let’s treat ourselves to some relaxation. How about a nice yoga session?”

It also might help to physically write down the worry, concern, or thought you’re having about school in a journal. Once you write it down, consider the thought “put away for later.” You can revisit the journal when you decide to—not when your brain decides.

If you’d rather think about school but just in a more healthy, limited way:

Set aside a chunk of time to do your “schooling.” The amount of time is up to you and your schedule—one morning once a month, every other week for a one-hour blitz, whatever. That way, when a thought about school pops up, you can reschedule it for your designated time.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I saw a colleague post on Facebook that they are going to switch from kindergarten to be a 2nd grade ELA teacher at my school. Only problem? I’m the 2nd grade ELA teacher! I’m terrified that I’m going to come back from summer and find out I’m switching to kindergarten and will have a mountain of prep to do and things to re-learn. It feels nosy to ask, but there’s no way I can relax until I know. What would you do?

—nosy nancy

Dear N.N.,

What would I do? Well, because I have a redheaded temper, I would probably want to text my principal a screenshot of the Facebook post and say, “What the hell, Barb?!” or whatever my principal’s name is. But then I would take a deep breath and make a better choice.

First, it is not nosy to ask clarification on what your job will be next year. Let’s just get that out of the way.

Second, I would bet that they are adding a position rather than swapping you two. It would be supremely not-smart of your principal to give official notice to one part of the swap and not the other.

If you know the teacher well, ask her first. Text or call and say, “Hey! Congrats on the new gig! Do you know if they are adding another position? I haven’t heard that I’m moving yet, so I’m curious whether we’d be on the same team (yay!) or swapping?”

If you don’t know the teacher well or don’t feel comfortable calling her, call or email your principal and say, “Hi! I’m reaching out because I heard Julie is moving to 2nd grade ELA. I’m wondering what this means for me. Thanks. Looking forward to hearing back from you!”

(Whatever you do, I would not recommend the aforementioned advice from my redheaded temper. She’s trouble.)

Do you have a burning question? Email us at

Dear We Are Teachers,

Help us break a tie. My lunch crew of fellow high school teachers is split. Half of us (me included) think students shouldn’t be able to use delivery services to the school for any reason. Our reasoning is singular: It overwhelms the front office staff. The other half of our teacher lunch crew says delivery services help kids who’ve forgotten their lunch or are ordering on behalf of a club or organization meeting. Who’s right?

—DEbating delivery doubts

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