First encounters

30th June 2000 at 01:00
Sarah Tomlins joins the mobile generation

I've done it; I've bought a mobile phone. I held out for so long, but eventually convinced myself that it would be silly not to. After all, it's relatively cheap, it provides me with some security when driving alone, an answerphone service, a phone book that I'm less likely to lose than my address book - and so the list goes on. That said, I'm still embarrassed about using it too much in public, wandering around the supermarket checking up on what else might be needed and irritating an entire train carriage by chatting loudly or letting it ring incessantly.

Perhaps soon every member of staff will have a mobile phone in the classroom as an easily accessible support back-up - no more sending kids down to the office. Or simply a personal phone to be carried around the school for ease of contact. It would certainly free up the constantly engaged staffroom phone (although it wouldn't be so easy to hide away from senior staff searching for someone to do a last-minute cover).

Will this be the next government initiative after this year's Computers for Teachers? I can see it now: Mobiles for Teachers, with companies desperately vying with each other to offer the best package, throwing in a free leather case.

It seems that no child is complete without a mobile or pager. Maybe it's a positive thing - they don't have to wear their voices ot arranging where and when to meet for lunch over the din of a crowded corridor in the rush hour of break. Now they just pull out a mobile, which also offers a great warning system against approaching staff.

Mobiles are actually banned from school, but I can't see too many abiding by that rule. My form, 7SFT, are all fast becoming proud owners; it seems that life wouldn't be worth living without a mobile or pager. As for the older pupils, how could they possibly organise their social life on a landline shared with parents and siblings?

The craze doesn't seem quite as strong in the staffroom. Yet mobiles are around, just more hidden and less of a status symbol. But the fact remains that I have fallen prey to something I thought I'd left behind along with uniforms and exams: peer pressure.

What have I gained in exchange? An 077 number, another set of monthly bills, and a speeding up of the process of killing my brain cells. More importantly, I can look at all the kids sporting a mobile, safe in the knowledge that my standard of living is just as good as theirs, despite being on a NQT salary.

And hey, I've got the added independence and responsibility of paying my own bills. I'm just waiting for the opportunity to sit on a train and pull out my phone along with everyone else.

Sarah Tomlins is an NQT teaching English at Poynton county high school, Cheshire

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