How can teachers avoid teacher student fights over cell phones?

In a recent article, a Paterson Public School teacher was involved in a teacher student fight over a cell phone. The teacher did not sustain any injuries. Teachers can avoid teacher student fights with students over a cell phone by establishing a positive relationship with students.

The Paterson Public School teacher student fight received national exposure. The Daily News revealed that a 23-second clip which showed a freshman at John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson manhandling a middle-aged teacher. The student wraps his arm around the teacher, drags him through the front of the classroom and then throws him onto the ground, and appears to hit him several times.

The physics teacher, who is 62, makes no attempt to fight back and none of the other students try to stop the fight, but one mutters, “Yo, chill!” when the student throws down his teacher as another classmate calls for security.

The 16-year-old student allegedly assaulted the teacher because the man took his cellphone from another student who was using it in class, according to the Bergen County Record. The assailant appears to be trying to snatch the phone from the teacher’s hands at the beginning of the video.

The student was arrested Friday and has been suspended from school. The teacher has worked for the district since 2003, the Record reports.

The first challenge with the teacher confiscating the student’s cell phone is that he did not establish positive relationships with the students.

This evident because the other students did not come to the rescue of the teachers. A recent teacher student fight in Baltimore revealed that students who care about their teachers will intercede on the teacher behalf. At the end of this teacher student fight you can see a student breaking up the fight. After the Paterson teacher student fight, Peter Tirri, president of the Paterson Education Association, told the paper he was “disappointed” to see the other students didn’t try to stop the fight.

Another challenge to consider is that the cell phone has now become the lifeline for many students and that magnifies the importance of the cell phone to the student.

By economical standards, students are on the lower end of the economical structure. Possession of a cell phone becomes more important to them because they are unable to have many possessions. Students use cell phones to communicate with friends and brand themselves. This is why it is so important to be careful to establish positive relationships with students before attempting to confiscate any of their personal property.

There are several additional benefits to developing positive relationships with students. Positive teacher student relationships:

  1. Improves instruction and learning
  2. Reduces confrontations that lead to teacher student fights

How can teachers develop positive teacher student relationships that avoid teacher student fights?

Greet your students with a smile. Black students are experts at evaluating nonverbal behavior. As the teacher, you must ensure that your smile is genuine. One practice that I used was to just smile in general. I remember one day when a Social Studies teacher asked me, “How do you do it?” He wanted to know how I was able to keep an upbeat attitude. My response was, “Why should I allow students to get me out of the nice person that I am just because they do not know how to behave.”

Shake their hand. I used to stand at the door and extend my hand. Those that felt positive towards me would shake my hand others would whisk by. That provided me a barometer for those students who may cause trouble later in the class. In the Black community, touch is reserved for family members. A polite handshake will introduce the family atmosphere to the student. A word of caution. Do not require that students look you in the eye when they shake your hand. Students who respect the teacher will not initially give direct eye contact.

Teach them success. Students will remain oppositional if they believe that they cannot have success in your classroom. It is like a football team. The teams that have success are the most cooperative with the coach. The teams that do not have success are the least cooperative with the coach.

Provide them with positive feedback. Call them Mr. or Miss. Black students are accustomed with sharing knowledge on an equal basis with adults. Requiring them to call you Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. and then you return the same response will make them believe that playing field is level.

Teachers can avoid teacher student fights over cell phones by first establishing positive teacher student classroom relationships.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012


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About Classroom Racism Management Specialist

Racism is a menace and so we’ve been taught for ages which is the primary need for a diversity expert. However, even in this modern society of today where we see a lot of colored celebrities performing on stage with huge fan followings and of course an Afro-America President for the USA, we are still in a phase where racism exists in all its brutal glory and has been eating away at the society like a plague. Classrooms, are one of the most affected areas where color differences and racism exists to its extremes. Even after decades of progress and a lot of communal efforts at bridging the gaps between colored students, white students and teachers, it is sad to say that the disparities still exist and are just as pronounced today as they were back in the 1950s. Colored students, even in the likes of New York City, are attending under resourced schools or have been significantly isolated and made to be unequal in regular schools. Even if the teachers are well-intentioned, perpetuating the structural racism that has taken deep roots into the fabric of our education system is a tough task and make the need for a diversity expert imperative. Teachers need to recognize the biases that exist within the classroom and also take conscious measures to address them and their own biases of course. James Baldwin once said, “it is your very own responsibility to change this society, if you think of yourself as an educated person.” Dr. Derrick L. Campbell took this quote very effectively and straight to the heart and thus this Classroom Racism Exterminator happened. Classroom Racism Exterminator is an initiative that will teach you about your duty and moral obligation towards eliminating racism from the classrooms. This is where and how you will learn about what you need to do to produce a better society that is free of biases and disparities amongst the blacks and the whites. Because we understand how classroom biases and conversations about racism are difficult and how teachers and students almost avoid the topics altogether, we have put together a range of effective methods and products to help address the problem at hand and talk meaningfully to counter issues related to race and racism in the classroom. Diversity expert Dr. Campbell understands that it takes a lot of courage to talk about race and racism and that racial issues need to be viewed through a very critical lens that can understand and attend to the pertaining aspects of racism in the classroom. And therefore through this website we have made a conscious effort to eliminate racism from the classroom and make the educational system equal and beneficial for all. We know and we understand that there are no words that can actually describe how racism feels. There are cases and everybody tends to deal with it in their own manner. Some might lash out verbally or others might just withdraw into shells. Whatever the case, people don’t talk about it openly and teachers don’t really make a conscious effort at addressing the issue. We don’t really know if our children or if the youth is learning to be educated or become racists in their classroom. Our program is focused on helping children of color and regardless of their race, their full potential. We want every student to be able to recognize and reach their full potential so that they think of themselves as responsible citizens of their country and not regard themselves as worthless human beings. Here you will find motivational books and flash card games, all of which have been designed focusing on eliminating racism completely from our classrooms. The books and the games have been consciously designed keeping in mind the American society and educational system. It is a small effort on our and Dr. Campbell’s part to help this society become a better place to live in. A little about diversity expert Dr. Campbell Dr. Derrick L. Campbell the driving force behind Classroom Racism Exterminator is a dynamic figure and a constant source of motivation for us. He has a Bachelors of Science in Electronics Engineering Technology, Math Education, a Masters in Education Administration and also holds a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. Dr. Campbell is a well known personality throughout the nation. He has lectured at various events including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference and a lot of local churches. He is a personality well dedicated towards eliminating the plague of racism from our classrooms and helping every child recognize his/her true potential not the color of their skin. He realizes how a child would feel if he/she was made to think they are worthless human beings. Diversity expert Dr. Campbell is compassionate and related to the experiences and therefore this initiative is a constant and continual effort to eliminate racism manifested in us, completely from the classroom and from our society.
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2 Responses to How can teachers avoid teacher student fights over cell phones?

  1. Ivan Banks says:

    More appropriately, I think the schools should communicate with parents and inform them about school policy. Given that the cost of having a cell phone is pretty nominal, I’m not really sure that they represent some higher status as the good doc proclaims. One piece of advice that might help in some classrooms is to integrate cell phone usage into the teaching / learning process. Given the connectivity students now have via such a small portable device, it would be powerful to help them understand other uses of the phone.

    Even with this, the bottom line has to do with respect; i.e. respect for rules and for persons in-charge. Let’s not make excuses for hard-headed students. This kind of blatant disregard for any authority and disrespect as displayed by students who would fight about a cell phone, will not serve them well. If they want to fight let them fight over who read the most books or, who got the highest grade on a test, or who is best informed about current events or, who got in the best college….

    I guess what I am saying is: stop making excuses for inappropriate behavior. That other students did not come to the aid of the teacher does point to deeper issues that require more time and attention than can be given here.


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