Some Mendocino County students were asked to do the “unthinkable” this week when school began — put their phones away all day.
“I saw students walking and talking instead of with their heads down and thumbs working a device,” said Anderson Valley School District Superintendent Louise Simson when describing the first day of classes in Boonville on August 14. “I also watched students play a game of Uno in the lounge, and saw them (giving) great attention to their teachers. In short, I saw something completely different than I have viewed in my past two years (here).”
When asked how the change came about, Simson said, “We did a trial program in the seventh and eighth grade last year and our intention was to grow it to a new grade every year. (But) the results were so incredible in the middle school that the entire staff unilaterally decided that we were going cellphone free.”
Simson described the phones as being put away into “a neoprene pouch with a magnetic locking device. The student turns off their phone and puts that and the earbuds in the pouch, and the device locks it during first period. That student keeps the pouch, and at the end of the day in the last class is unlocked. In an emergency, all rooms have an unlock device or you can cut the case open.”
With the students’ phones unusable, Simson said there has been an “amazing release of the constant conflict of ‘put your phone away!’ and students and teachers are having real relationships again based on learning. As part of the deal though, staff has also pledged to not use their phone in front of kids. There’s mutual respect here.”
Simson described the new policy, which she said was supported by parents, as “continuing indefinitely. I think this ‘no cell phone policy’ will set Anderson Valley head and shoulders above the county and state in mental health/wellness and achievement.”
Simson also shared quotes from faculty:
Kira Brennan: “Though the students say this is going to be hard, not having cellphones, even they are admitting it is going to make learning so much more focused. I know it was just the first day but I just loved ‘no phone life’ on campus so much. Kids were socializing and talking to each other, which was just a joy to behold.”
Ali Cook: “I am so grateful for this change. Thank you to everyone!”
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No Cell Phones Is Transformative
Dear Anderson Valley Community,
Welcome back! It was wonderful to have our students and staff back on campus!
The elementary staff were welcoming first timers and teaching them all about the “business of school.” Watching Ms. Mayne and Ms. Soto showing, with amazing kindness, the procedures of the school day was heartwarming and encouraging. I saw no tears! The newbies were happy to be at “the big school!”
The preschool was in full swing with Teacher Anita hosting a pretend snack bar session and pretend phone calls with families with the amazing staff.
The upper grades were already into relevant material and the kitchen was cooking it up!
The high school started off with a brief rally led by the exceptionally well-rehearsed, AV Cheerleaders. And then, phones were pouched throughout the day. Was it hard? I am sure it was, but I watched students play a game of Uno in the student Zen Den lounge and visit, students were walking next to someone TALKING instead of with heads down and thumbs working a device. I saw students with great attention to their teachers.In short, I saw something completely different than I have viewed in my past two years.
I am deeply grateful to the students, parents/guardians, and staff that shifted to make this happen. I think this no cell phone policy will set Anderson Valley head and shoulders above the County and State in mental health/wellness and achievement. This is huge–thanks to you all.
A few faculty notes on today:
”I can only say WOW. It was a night and day experience. Though the students say this is going to be hard, not having cell phones, even they are admitting it is going to make learning so much more focused. It was amazing to NOT have that constant presence of the phone in the back pocket, and instead, more of a human presence.--So grateful!” — Kira Brennan
I know it was just the first day but I just loved no phone life on campus so much. Kids were socializing and talking to each other which was just a joy to behold. I didn’t hear any complaints or have any issues with pouching. I am so grateful for this change. Thank you to everyone! — Ali Cook
Students were well behaved and they had a great time being back at school! It is going to be a great year! — Maryann Grezenda
It felt so normal and I felt good at the end of the day. — David Ballantine
I will say from my own perspective (and I carry two phones and tried my best not to use them in front of kids), I came home much more relaxed. Let’s see if it stays that way!
On a different note, I walked with a structural engineer. We are going to aggressively petition the State for replacement/repair of the domes, gym, and shop. More fun! I am going to need you on this one to be LOUD. Details to follow! Big State official visit on August 24–Number two State Superintendent and Number One State Facilities head. Let’s get this done for our kids–they deserve it.
Hope you are well!
Louise Simson, Superintendent
Anderson Valley Unified School District