Imagine that you’re a principal and you’ve joined your colleagues for the leadership meeting with the superintendent and staff at central office. The year is 2002. It’s five years before the birth of the first iPhone (June 29, 2007) and another year before the Blackberry RIM 850 and 857 debut.
Now, for a moment, imagine that you have brought with you to the meeting your mail. I’m not talking about your laptop or tablet (we don’t even have tablets); there’s not much in the way of wifi so that’s not it. Imagine instead that you have brought your U.S. Postal Service-delivered, sealed in envelopes, stamped and processed, actual mail. Maybe for fun you have a really big rubber band around it to keep it together. See the picture?
There you are at the meeting: you, your fellow principals, the superintendent’s staff, the superintendent, and… your stack of mail. With the big red (or green) rubber band.
The meeting begins well enough, but as time goes on, you sort of get a little disinterested. The topics aren’t items that are really specific to you and your school and, well, you have this stack of mail to look at. So, you pull out your letter opener, make an incision, and open up a piece of mail. You read it over, glancing back up at the meeting and its attendees every so often. Just for effect, you even nod occasionally at something that someone else says even though you really aren’t sure what they said, but you do look like you’re paying attention anyway.
Can you imagine that scene? Well of course not! You would have been stared down by your colleagues first, then by the directors, and if you didn’t stop looking at your mail soon enough, the superintendent would have most likely addressed your behavior. This would not have been acceptable.
Why then, do so many principals, assistant principals, and other school leaders look at their phones when they’re around other people? Have our jobs become that hypersensitive? Are things in that tenuous of a state that we have to be at that level of alert at all times? Most likely not.
Do we even intend to look at our phones all the time? I don’t think so, and neither does Larry Rosen, author and psychologist who suggests that our incessant viewing of our phones is potentially: addiction; obsession, a social shield.
For the leader, any of those root causes of this behavior can be detrimental to our ability to lead our schools and the people in them. There will be more about phones, technology and our ability to conquer our use of it in future blogspots here. For now, here’s a challenge for the school leader for this week: let’s get a baseline. How often do you check your phone between the time you get to work and when the school day proper concludes? (buses, students and teachers have departed) Count your glances; record them (where else? in the notes section of your phone), and then begin to see where you are.
If you are looking at your phone more frequently than you are seeking out others to have face-to-face engagement, you may have an issue that will need addressing.