Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If You're Thinking About What To Get Me For Christmas This Year...

As a teacher I can see why these might be nifty to have--"Your kid screws around in class too much, doesn't pay attention, etc. Here, watch."

I can also see the other side of that coin--"The teacher picks on me, puts me down, and yells too much. Here, watch."

I've been putting some thought into a topic lately: why do I support the legalized videotaping of police officers in the performance of their duties, but not the recording of teachers in the performance of their duties? It's easy to let teachers off the hook and say that we can't lock people up or cause them to be fined, but given the right parents we can certainly make a child's life none-too-pleasant. We're not armed, but we're an authority figure that's relatively respected in society. So what's the difference?

I'm also not willing to let teachers off the hook by claiming that most schools don't allow students to use that type of electronic equipment during school--imagine the cheating that could go on! That doesn't address the point of actually being recorded.

Is it really nothing more than "I might say something that I shouldn't, and I don't want it to be recorded?" Or is there some other principle that I know is there but on which I just can't put my finger?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about we video the room from two angles all the time? You want to argue that the kids are mis-behaving, no problem. The kids want to argue that you are doing something wrong, either you have evidence supporting you or they have evidence supporting them (or, maybe, neither ...).

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

One key difference between teachers and cops is the amount of "interaction time". A highway patrolman spends a lot of time in the car, not interacting with the public. A teacher, on the other hand, spends 55 minutes of every hour interacting with the "public". Does that make a difference?

Mrs. C said...

I think it comes down to WHY you would want the camera. I see no reason teachers can't be trusted unless there is reasonable evidence to the contrary.

I wouldn't want my older son's classes videotaped, but I WOULD be plenty supportive of my non-verbal child's class being videotaped. He cannot tell the teachers or me what might be upsetting him, and teachers could review footage if there is an ongoing problem.

But if you can't trust the teacher at least reasonably, you oughtn't send your child to school. Cops, though, it doesn't matter if you trust them and no offense to teachers, but they're much more powerful in that they can do more to mess up your life than just assigning a detention. :)

maxutils said...

In the case of the police, there is the expectation of conflict with virtually every interaction with the public. As such, the video serves more often than not to promote the officer's safety, or provide evidence in a trial. For teachers, however, we assume that each interaction is likely to be positive. to videotape in this case would imply otherwise. I think that may be the principle you're looking for.

mazenko said...

For as long as I've been a teacher, I've told my administrators that I wouldn't mind at all if they just put a camera and microphone in my room and flipped it on any time to see what's going on.

Despite all the cries of "1984 Orwellian tyranny," I don't see any reason for the opposition. The classroom is a public place and it requires no more privacy than the hallways or airports. And I teach 1984 every year.

Though it will never happen, I wouldn't mind it, and at times would prefer it.

Anna A said...

I was thinking about this over night, and wonder if privacy and trust might be a factor as well. In teaching, I would think there would need to be both. In police work, a lot of it is public where there is no expectation of privacy. AND the most trustworthy police are the most open.

High School Tchr said...

I agree with mazenko. If a teacher is doing the job they are suppose to be doing, it shouldn't matter whether they are videotaped or not. I have requested to tape classes before, but have always been told no because the classroom is not considered a public area, and it would violate the students privacy.

I have a colleague that was accused of hitting a student during class. The administrators only interviewed three other students from the class whose names were given to them by the "victim". Of course they agreed with her story, they were her friends. The teacher hired a lawyer and said she would fight this accusation in court. The student then backed down and admitted she had lied. If there had been a tape in the classroom, it would have eliminated weeks of rumors, stress and anguish.

Personally, I think it protects teachers and students. Bullying, harassment, cheating, stealing could be diminished with the use of videotapes.

DADvocate said...

I would like to see classes videotaped. Kids couldn't deny the video and teachers could get it right. When I was in high school the principal, who taught a class also, accused me of bothering the student in front of me. He was actually cleaning mud off his shoe with a pencil by leaning back.

Despite the other student defending me and my denial, the principal arrogantly refused to change his position. Although the only consequence was being forced to move to another desk, I lost all respect for the principal because of his arrogance.

Because of many similar experiences, I have a strong tendency to distrust teachers and school administrators. The circle the wagons and insist they're right no matter how wrong they are. While the bad teachers may be 1 in 10, they seem to get quick protection from all.

Anonymous said...

I can see why one would be uncomfortable about being taped all the time. Still, I am a parent, I have gone to the principal and superintendent about a problem in my kid's class. I was told the problem didn't/wasn't happening. I saw the problem with my own eyes, but I had no proof other than my word. Especially in elementary school, I would like a camera in my kids' classroom for their protection.

Maxutils, I have no reason to expect every teacher interaction to be positive. Why do you?

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who was accused by a female student of touching her inappropriately. This was at the high school level.

My friend was not guilty, and he believed the real motivation was the girl wanted to transfer from his class to a different one that was taught by a less demanding teacher.

After some legal wrangling, she got the transfer she wanted. Her parents were apparently satisfied with this, as they did not pursue the issue any further.

If that had been my daughter, I don't think I would have been mollified by a mere transfer. I believe the parents were complicit in the false accusation.

As an aside, when my friend spoke with the union-supplied lawyer, the lawyer confided that he had a large number of similar cases that were active. He instructed my friend: no close-proximity interaction with students. Have them line up in front of your desk for questions, don't go to the side of their desks. Don't walk the rows.

Though these kinds of problems don't happen every day, I think such an experience could make a teacher more accepting of in-class cameras. If school districts start to believe they have a real incentive to put cameras in, were the (perceived) benefits to outweigh the actual costs, it could happen.

maxutils said...

Well, I don't . . .I said LIKELY to be, and I was merely contrasting the experience of the police officer, where the vast majority of people he comes in to contact with are being corrected for breaking a law, and that of a teacher, where we are approaching our students in the hope providing a positive learning experience.

Personally, I don't want to be taped, for a couple of reasons: first, I've never had a case where I wished I had one to back up my claims of student misbehavior. Second, I think that knowing I was being taped would take away from my spontaneity and delivery . . . imagine having a 180 day long administrative observation. Lastly, while I don't cuss, or beat my students, or expose my genitals in class, there are, over the course of a year, times when I've lost my cool or said something that I've regretted. When this happens, I apologize to my class and it's over and done with. I've had one minor complaint in 15 years . . . that changes if you have a photographic record that can be pieced into a compilation of maxutils greatest meltdowns . . .

Ellen K said...

A colleague of mine just moved to the new ninth grade center. He discovered, to his dismay that not only are their mics to pick up sound, but video cameras in the room. That's kind of creepy. On the other hand, my daughter's AP Chem teacher used to take digital pics of students who were sleeping and email them to parents.