For most of my nine-year teaching career I have held to the self-imposed policy that my cell phone remains turned off and in my bag during the day. Then my timer broke—my trusty, use-it-constantly-in-class, perfectly sized and sounded timer. I changed the batteries three times but it still wouldn’t work.
Well, instead of running to Target or Walmart to buy another one, I pulled out my cell phone and used the timer feature. Oh, I’ll just use it this one time, I told myself each time I reached for my phone a dozen times a day.
Then I realized that I could change the ringtone on the timer to make class even more engaging. One day it was a revving motorcycle, the next day a rain shower, the next day a few chords of classical music. It was fun to keep the kids guessing. Plus I was earning major street cred for having the latest iPhone, the one gadget my middle school students would actually obey their parents for.
The problem was that it was my personal phone, not just a timer. Occasionally people would call me in the middle of the day. Last week, my mother called me as I was wrapping up my reading class. Since my dad got sick and died earlier this year, and I went into a momentary panic when I saw she was calling. I had to answer.
When I said, “Hi Mom,” all of my students started shouting “Hi Ms. Rhames’ mom!” I knew I was being completely unprofessional but I kept talking to find out what was wrong.
“I’m fine. I just wanted to see how you were doing,” she said. “I’m sorry. I thought you’d be on vacation by now.”
Working at a charter school with a year-round schedule means that my summer break begins in July. I rushed my mother off the phone, promising to call back when I got off work.
I usually turn my ringer off during class, but some of the mid-day text messages I receive are hard to ignore. This is especially true with my husband. He’ll send me a message that simply says, “Hey sexy.” I’ll instantly start blushing and students will say, “What? What just happened, Ms. Rhames?”
So the moral of this story is, don’t use your cell phone—buy a timer. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to the store and walked to my car with bags of stuff and realized that I forgot to buy that darn timer!
But wait—there’s more. The ultimate mistake I made with my fancy phone/timer did not involve class time or students. On my lunch break in February, I texted my husband a somewhat provocative message about our plans for spring break at a waterpark.
It went something like this: “Which would you prefer: Swedish massage for 2 with champagne and strawberries, or upgrade to hotel suite with a Jacuzzi? Can’t wait. I love you soooo much! Xoxoxoxo”
As soon as I sent it, my heart dropped. I realized that I hadn’t sent it to my husband but to my instructional leader and my entire grade level team of four! I immediately texted an apology, but it was too late. My colleagues began texting me back their votes—"I’d go for the massages"; “Heck, take ‘em both!"; “Ooh-la-la, Marilyn, you get down like that?!?”
Then my boss called me on my classroom phone. For a split second I thought I would get fired. She was laughing and saying that the massage sounded like a winner. I heard my principal and the other instructional leader laughing uncontrollably in the background. She had me on speaker phone!
Embarrassed? No, mortified. That was me.
I walked in the teacher’s lounge and people were laughing and sharing my text. (Funny how all the teachers had their cell phones on during school.)
My husband surprised me with that iPhone as a gift, but I never could get used to it. The phone’s operation was not intuitive to me, and I found it quite confusing. Beyond talking, texting and checking emails, I only used it for timing my class. After the big debacle, I asked my husband to sell my iPhone and get me a Samsung Galaxy, which I still use today.
You’re probably wondering which option we went for—the massage or the Jacuzzi—so I might as well tell you. We upgraded to a themed suite with a large whirlpool. My 11-year-old and 7-year-old daughters had a great time in it. I obviously had a great time, too. Today, I turned 16 weeks pregnant.
I still don’t have a timer!!!
*Illustration by Lindsay Johnson added on 7/10/13
The opinions expressed in Charting My Own Course are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.