How do you handle cell phone use during lessons?

Barb said: Apr 14, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I didn’t used to have a cell phone policy, but here are a few things I experienced:

Student siblings phoning their mother during the lesson to ask a question or settle a squabble.
Parents phoning home to check on their kids.
Parent walking around the corner into my kitchen and making business calls.
Parent texting.
Parent receiving texts or emails (or something with an audible notification).
A STUDENT receiving a text (on vibrate) and immediately replying. (That got MY immediate reply!)
A student answering her mother’s phone while her mother went out to walk the dog which had been in the car.

This year I asked parents (and students) to turn off phones when they come in for lessons. I suggested they give family members my number for emergencies. But that seems to have been forgotten by some now, and a couple of the above are examples from this year.

I also have had a student who let me know in advance that the hospital might be phoning when his wife was ready to be released. No problem for special circumstances like that! How nice of him to let me know and apologize in advance!

I think what I will do is simply stop the lesson if there is a cell phone interruption, and wait for the parent to finish whatever is so important as to take away from lesson time. I really do find it distracting, and our playing makes it difficult for them to hear if they are taking or making a call, anyway.

Maybe I need a special cell phone spot out of reach for students to leave their phones during the lesson. (Did she really think I couldn’t see what she was doing behind her cello?) Maybe the parents, too!

What do you do?

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Lori Bolt said: Apr 15, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

My policy is that parents are not to answer cells, text or use other electronic devices (tablets, Iphones, laptops….) during lessons—except in case of emergency. My teaching policy sheet states it, and I post a reminder on my studio clipboard immediately after someone “forgets”. It is an occasional problem even so.

I like the idea of stopping the lesson, Barb, so I’m going to try that. Also, since some are finishing calls as they arrive, lesson won’t begin until phone calls are done and parent is inside the studio.

Probably, turning off devices and placing them in a provided receptacle is a good way to go

Lori Bolt

Brenda Lee Villard said: Apr 15, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Edina, MN
27 posts

I’ve had to set some pretty hard rules on cell phones, too. For the kids the rule is “if I hear it or see it, it’s mine.” That goes for lessons and groups. I sent out an email stating this and asked if any parent has an issue with that policy. No one did so that is what I go by. Most of the kids leave the cell phone in the cello case because they know that if their phone rings, I will answer it for them. (Yes, I have done it.) In the instances that a parent needed to talk to an older teen during their lesson, they have texted me. My phone sits within my eyesight but no sound (or vibration) is on.

We go on annual weekend cello retreats each fall and the first rule is no phones or electronic devices—including Ipods (or the radio) in the car for the 3 hour drive. The kids used to balk but just last year they told me that they were glad I had that rule and to stick with it when the next generation of cello retreat kids were old enough to go. I just keep telling them that they need to find other ways to amuse themselves and they have. We now have annual traditions of capture the flag, candy hunt at midnight, relay races, lots of board games and team building games, plus fireside chats and of course, cello jammin’. The only time a phone comes out is to take a picture.

Since I have a lot of doctors in the studio, as well as single parents with kids left at home, I am a bit more lenient on the parents. Most of them have the good sense to say excuse me and leave the room for their call. If things get out of hand, I just drop another email reminder and it usually takes care of things.

Barb said: Apr 15, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Brenda, I want to go on your cello retreat! :-) It would be more than a three hour drive for me, however… Don’t know if I could live without anything on in the car for the number of days it would take me to get there…

Thanks for sharing how you do things, Lori and Brenda.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Sue Hunt said: Apr 15, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Barb, what a great idea to stop the lesson while a parent answers the phone. Make sure you take your time to get started when they come back to earth.

Terri Parsons said: Apr 15, 2012
Terri ParsonsCello, Flute
14 posts

I would let them know that non-emergency calls (including texting) are not acceptable and that cell phones need to be turned off when they take their instrument out of the case or before they walk in the door. I had a 15 year old who was taking texts from her friend and I finally said to her, “I think it would be a good idea for you to turn that off before you come to lesson.” Her mom has my number in the event she would need to contact her and that’s all that matters. It’s out and out rude. Period. Then I would assure the student that you will not extend their lesson time to accommodate them taking phone calls or making phone calls, period, no exceptions. I have a policy for cancellations and lesson etiquette. My students and parents sign it when they begin taking lessons in my studio. I don’t foot around with this. I don’t want to waste their time or mine.

Terri Parsons
Cello/Flute Teacher
Cellist
La T Da Music
www.lajollastrings.com

Rhonda said: Apr 16, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Edmonton, AB
12 posts

Some of the parents make all of their lesson notes on the iPad and I have not found that to be distracting. There is also the possibility of taking short videos on the iPad.
Perhaps these parents are also checking their email during the lesson, but I’m not aware of it, and it doesn’t seem to distract them too much.
For a lot of people, pen and paper is a thing of the past.

Lauren Canitia said: Apr 17, 2012
Lauren Canitia
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
6 posts

I encourage my parents to use their phones and ipads to take notes and videos. Most of the time I think that’s what they are doing. I’m sure some of them are surfing the web or checking email. Occassionally, a parent has to take a call, and I ask them to step outside. It especially bothers me when they take the call IN the lesson and start talking during the lesson. How rude! I addressed that issue on the spot.

I think I may post a sign or include more specific instructions in my studio policy.

Barb said: Apr 19, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Yes, there is the digital note-taking and/or recording the lesson factor which I wouldn’t want to prevent. It’s the talking and notification noises which are disruptive. Maybe instead of a phones off policy (for parents) it should be a silence policy. There are times I still have to remind parents about the one teacher thing, too— that would come under the same heading in some ways (though there are also the “sign language” parents).

I once had a parent interrupt the lesson with, “I know this is inappropriate to ask you during a lesson, but….” and she asked me something TOTALLY unrelated to lessons or her child. In hindsight I should have answered, “You are right, that is inappropriate, please ask me again after the lesson.” I guess I was too shocked to be able to reply in a sensible manner, though.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Jennifer Visick said: May 1, 2012
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I do ask them not to take or make calls during the lesson.

But, adults may have business calls that they need to take in order to stay in business; Many business contacts expect to be able to get a hold of someone almost right away. If they choose to answer the phone while I’m on the clock, that’s their decision. If the child can practice alone at home, I ask the parent to step outside for the duration of the call, but to stay within line of sight. If the child still needs parent help at home, we stop the lesson and wait.

It’s courteous for the adult who may have a call that they have decided they need to take to inform me of the possibility of such a call coming in, before the lesson starts.

I don’t think that children need any phone privileges during the lesson. Although, I have had teenage students whose parents don’t know how to use their cell phones, and the student has had to stop the lesson to show the parent how to turn the thing off!

Gregory Guay said: May 18, 2012
Gregory Guay
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
Mount Pleasant, SC
10 posts

You are probably such a gentle considerate teacher but need to dish out a little toughness/authority when it comes to something simple like this. It’s very rude for students/parents/siblings to assume they can do that. They could at least leave they room but even that is disrespectful…
blessings!

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