An Arizona high school biology teacher had his last week of teaching after becoming exasperated with his students’ constant smartphone usage in the classroom.

Sahuaro High School’s Mitchell Rutherford spoke to a local Tucson NBC affiliate early last week, saying that he has done everything he can to try and get his students to break their “addiction” to their phones, and is now giving up.

“I have been struggling with mental health this year mostly because of what I identified as basically phone addiction with the students,” Rutherford told the news station.


This past Thursday was the 35-year-old public school educator’s last day in the profession after 11 years. Rutherford said he has employed a variety of lesson plans throughout the last few years to get his students to understand the harms of constant cellphone usage in their daily lives.

“Here’s extra credit, let’s check your screen time, let’s create habits, let’s do a unit on sleep and why sleep is important and how to reduce your phone usage for a bedtime routine, and we talked about it every day and created a basket called ‘phone jail,’” he said, giving examples of everything he has tried to implement.

Rutherford compared extreme phone usage to drug addiction, arguing that it’s even worse than being hooked on substances or being addicted to sugar.

“Opioids, obviously a huge problem, cocaine, heroin, all of those drugs, alcohol, it’s all a big problem, but like sugar even greater than that and then phones even greater than that,” he said.

In a separate interview with the Wall Street Journal, the educator described witnessing this problem get worse during the COVID-19 pandemic and that “something shifted” in the kids.

Studies conducted in the last couple of years have shown that pandemic learning loss has been a great detriment to the education, skill level and productivity of K-12 students nationwide.

As he saw the problem grow, “I was beginning to think I was the problem,” Rutherford told the outlet. He added that some students would flat-out admit to him they didn’t care about school.

He doesn’t blame the kids fully, however. He told the local outlet that society has to foster better habits in children.

“As a society, we need to prioritize educating our youth and protecting our youth and allowing their brains and social skills and happiness to develop in a natural way, without their phone,” Rutherford said.

The teacher told WSJ that he is ready to embark on a new career path, like potentially working at an online college prep school or going into a vocational program. Still, he worries he could be “abandoning” his students with this decision.



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