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Cell Phone Manners and Etiquette for Teachers

Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.


Most of the discussions today about cell phones in school are centered around students with cell phones. While this is an important topic, it is also essential that teachers consider their own cell phone etiquette in a variety of school settings. Not only is it necessary for teachers to exhibit good manners with their phones so that classrooms, meetings, and professional development sessions run smoothly, it is necessary so that students get a good example of cell phone etiquette at school.

  • Don't answer your phone in front of your class or text while working with students. This is one of the most important cell phone tips for teachers. if you expect your students not to use their phones during class, set an example and give them the respect of doing the same. If you need to send a quick message, do it while students are working on something independently. When I was teaching, I had my husband and close family call the school directly when there were emergency situations (i.e. illness, car trouble).
  • Don't answer your phone or text during meetings. Regardless of the type of meeting (i.e. parent-teacher conference, co-worker planning meeting), leave your phone alone unless there is some kind of emergency. If you know that someone may need to get in touch with you during that time, let the other people in the meeting know before it starts.
  • This same principle applies for professional development sessions. You would think that teachers would understand more than anyone how important it is to give presenters your full attention. Sadly this is far from the truth. If you are restless during a session, find a more discrete way to stay occupied, such as doodling. If you absolutely need to use your phone right away and can't wait for a break, leave the room to take care of it.
  • Use discretion when communicating with other staff members via cell phone. It is absolutely fine to communicate with other staff via cell phone outside of school. However, it is important to use discretion when discussing information related to school. In general, it is best to discuss this information through the school phone system and/or school e-mail accounts.
  • Use even more discretion when communicating with parents via cell phone. Some parents may prefer to communicate with teachers via text message, which is okay. Again, just use discretion about the topics that you discuss through this communication method. If you feel it's necessary with either parents or teachers, document conversations or get print outs of texts.
  • As a general rule, don't give out your cell phone number to students. With that being said, there may be exceptions to this rule, particularly for middle or high school students. For example, if students are out on their own during a field trip (i.e. in a museum), you can give them your cell phone number. Some teachers give contact information to students who are graduating and may want to keep in touch, which is fine.
  • Unless you're waiting for a call or message, don't check your phone during lunch or other breaks with teachers. I am really tired of being at social functions where people are constantly checking their phones. Enjoy the time to interact with others and take a break from technology.
  • Don't leave your phone out, unguarded, in your classroom. This may seem paranoid, but most phones are expensive and you never know who may be wandering around the school. If you leave your classroom and don't take it with you, put it out of sight, such as in a desk drawer or in your purse, which is in the closet.


Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 17, 2013:

Thanks, Vicki! I agree that most of these points are common sense. But like many others who also commented, I've also seen way more than my share of these actions in practice.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 17, 2013:

Like others, I would think this would be common sense. More teachers should read this hub! Voted up and more!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 03, 2012:

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Thanks, Paul! It's a shame that this is a problem across other countries, too.

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on December 03, 2012:


This is a very useful hub for not only teachers but other professional people. I certainly agree with all of your tips. As a teacher in a Thai elementary and secondary school in Bangkok, I share a faculty room with many foreign and Thai teachers. What gripes us foreign teachers is some of the poor etiquette which Thai teachers have. For example, they will speak loudly in our small room when taking calls instead of having the call outside in the corridor. Then, too, a lot of teachers will leave their cell phones at their desk and not mute the ringer while they are away. It's driven us crazy to hear the same ring tone over and over for minutes upon end. Voted up and sharing.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 31, 2012:

Cyndi, it's awful that a school would have to come up with a code of conduct for something like that. Usually I left my phone in my purse in my classroom. My husband had the school's number if he ever did need to reach me. I don't like being attached to my phone either. It drives me nuts when people have to check their text messages every 5 minutes no matter where they are.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on August 31, 2012:

When I was teaching, I can't tell you how many teachers would text during professional development. They finally came up with a cell-phone code of conduct for teachers because so many were abusing the privilege of having a phone. I personally left mine in my office. I figured if someone needed me in an emergency, they could call the school itself. If there was a lockdown emergency, I swear there were always other students and teachers in a classroom that would have a phone on hand. Plus, I don't really like being attached to my phone. I think I'm an anomaly there, but half the time, I don't even know where the thing is - and I don't even have a landline! LOL.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 31, 2012:

Thanks, Teylina! You are right that many kids are the way they are because of behaviors picked up from parents. It's great when you can establish strict standards that allow for kids to be forgiving in emergency situations like that. There ARE appropriate times to answer your phone no matter what, and it's important to keep them sacred like that.

Teylina on August 31, 2012:

You are so right! How can we ban cell-phone use for the kids if we are using them? Kids copy. I personally think that tendency is why kids today are often the way they are. I will admit to having my phone on vibrate when I had seriously ill family member 200 mi away. Any call would be an "emergency" notice. The two times in two days it went off, the kids started laughing, and I said yes, it was MY phone-- I had serious family illness -- it would be short and please accept my "need to know" -- they were great about it. My family knew enough (and I!) to be super-short but informative, but I did apologize to the class for "my disrespect" because of my worry. Issue: real need vs desire and disrespect.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 10, 2012:

Thanks, smartmusic! You're right about teachers needing to set a good example. That is a great point about the ringtones, too!

smartmusic on July 10, 2012:

Good lens, teachers have to set an example. Also, make sure you don't have any inappropriate ringtones go off in the middle of a class, that could be awkward!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 10, 2012:

There are plenty of reasons to have your phone at school. I don't know that I'd recommend leaving it at home, but that doesn't mean that you need to have it out for most of the work day.

Nick Hanlon from Chiang Mai on July 10, 2012:

i'm a new just best leave the damn thing at home.if it's not necessary it stays at home.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 10, 2012:

Thanks, Jackie!

Docmo, thanks for sharing this article! You're right that you'd think this would be common sense, but you hear about lots of stories where teachers are setting a bad example for kids or are just being downright disrespectful during meetings.

Mohan Kumar from UK on July 10, 2012:

very sensible advice, random. As TT says, one would think most teachers would be sensible but I constantly here of this breach of etiquette which either sends the wrong message to the kids or gets teachers into trouble. This should be an essential read for all teachers. I think I'll share it with the teachers group at our local school ( I'm one of the Governors there) . Much much appreciated and voted up!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on July 09, 2012:

This sounds like good and common sense advice.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 09, 2012:

Terrye, yes, you would think that this would be common sense. However, clearly many of us know more than a few teachers that are guilty of more than a couple of these behaviors. You're right about the student behavior. It's sad when teachers don't have that respect themselves. How do they expect students to learn respect?

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on July 09, 2012:

random, you would *think* that this would be common sense, however, I know of several teachers that do all or most of these. And they wonder why their students do it to them while they are giving a lecture. :) I think it's called respect or something... :) VUMS!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 09, 2012:

Janine, that's awful! I would never forget that experience either. Hopefully he didn't get called back too many times after behavior like that. Thanks!

prairieprincess, thanks! You're right about teachers being the worst audience and that they need to set good examples themselves. They preach at kids all day about respect and listening, and then they don't uphold it themselves. I know that professional development can be a huge waste of time, but there is no need to be downright rude to presenters like that. It's certainly not always easy to set positive examples, particularly in negative work environments, but it can make such a difference.

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on July 09, 2012:

RC, this is a great hub. Your advice is spot on. As a former teacher, I was always struck at how rude some teachers were at presentations and conferences to the presenters, by whispering between themselves. They say teachers make the worst audience and it's true!

It is important for teachers to be good examples when it comes to manners and character. To "walk the talk." It's not easy but kids do look to them for cues on how to behave. Thanks for writing a very useful hub. Take care!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on July 09, 2012:

Wow, I wish someone would have shared this with some of the teachers I worked with. I was 8 months pregnant with my first, when my co-teacher was out for the day and I had a substitute teacher working with me for the day covering for her. Well, while I was busy doing my job working with my students and surveying the room as to who needed my help during group work, the substitute teacher was sitting and texting on his phone. He had the nerve to say to me that I should be the one sitting in my condition. I just looked at him and said, "You think!". Seriously, I will never forget this one. Your article is so true and everything you discussed about cellphone etiquette for teachers so rings true. Voted up and shared too.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 09, 2012:

Thanks, kr! It's terrible to have that kind of behavior at board meetings. You're right that the head of the board or the meeting is at fault for not saying anything and letting that behavior continue. The same principle goes for professional development sessions. Yes, teachers and board members should know better, but the higher ups need to step up and keep people in line, too.

Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 09, 2012:

This is really great advice. I've been at board meetings where another board member was texting and receiving texts during the meeting and it was very distracting. I recall thinking that the owner should have stifled it immediately but he allowed it to go on and gosh, it was hard to ignore. Thanks for sharing. -K

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 09, 2012:

Thanks, donnah! You're absolutely right about that kind of behavior. It is unprofessional. I hope that in this age of smartphones, more administrators start addressing that issue. It looks bad for a district to bring in someone for a professional development session or to have a combined session like that with multiple districts and have that kind of behavior.

Donna Hilbrandt from Upstate New York on July 09, 2012:

Good advice for any professional. Where I work, cell service is nearly non-existent, which has been a bit of a blessing. The service is getting better though, and the behavior is getting worse. I attended a professional development day at a different school a couple of years ago and I was shocked by how many people were texting and surfing on their phones during the conference. It was so unprofessional.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 09, 2012:

Thanks, Kelley! That's too bad about your son's teacher. You know if you catch someone doing that on the random occasions that you're there, she has to be doing that on a somewhat regular basis.

Thanks, vox vocis! It is hard to believe, isn't it?

Jasmine on July 09, 2012:

You're right on the spot with the cell phone etiquette. When I see teachers answer their phone in class, I rub my eyes to check whether I'm dreaming.

kelleyward on July 09, 2012:

Randomcreative, I agree with everything you said here. I remember catching my son's teacher on the phone several times last year and although I love her and think she is fantastic it was really annoying. Voted up and Pinned Kelley

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