Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Act No Differently

videocameraI recently read the article Teachers Caught on Tape Bullying Special Needs Student and appalled by the behavior of the teachers.

I will again say something that usually horrifies the teachers in my graduate classes. There needs to be video cameras in the classrooms. With the ability of using cellphones to record what goes on in the classroom anyway, teachers need to think about their own behaviors. We spend a lot of time focusing on the behavior of our students in the classroom, out of the classroom, and even online. But teachers need to start behaving professionally in the classroom and I feel this is a non-negotiable. There is absolutely no excuse for poor teacher behavior in the classroom and if it is going on, it needs to be stopped. It is these kinds of teachers that are giving our profession a bad name. Maybe with recordings on teacher behavior, it may be easier to get rid of bad teachers faster. Let’s face it, in a student’s twelve year career as a student, we don’t have a lot of time to waste with providing them with a terrible teacher.

I have seen two teachers on separate occasions be suspended because their behavior was captured on a cell phone. I have even felt resistance from teachers when I have recommend that students with learning disabilities to tape record a class so they can have the lecture to use for studying purposes. I remember doing this when I was in college so wouldn’t we be teaching them a skill they can use in the future?

In my classroom, I had a video camera set up on Day 1. The light was covered with black electric tape so the students never knew if it was on or not. Parents signed a permission slip for students to be taped to improve classroom instruction and strategies and would not be used in any public way. I would turn it on as soon as the students arrived in class and turn it off when the last student left. If I had a problem with one student, many times I would turn the camera towards that student. Even if the camera didn’t always show what I was doing, the audio was clear enough to hear what was being said. I would have 3 tapes for each day and label them A, B, C that would be reused over and over.

This protected me and the students. I never acted any differently in my classroom with the students if I was alone, being taped, or had visitors. My behavior needed to be consistent for the students. If it wasn’t, then I needed to take a hard look at what I was doing and why.

If a student makes allegations that I did something in the classroom, I would be able to show the tape to protect myself. I could also show parents the behavior that I wanted to correct, especially if the student denied doing it. Many times I could even show the student the behavior that he sometimes didn’t realize he was doing. I would have the student tally each time he saw the behavior that was inappropriate. We started to keep charts and the student could see his own improvement. It was a great way for self monitoring.

Highway Patrol cars in our state have a camera on the front of their cars which again protects them and the person they are stopping. I have seen it used many times. When my husband was a judge, he used one in his courtroom. Again, in both situations, the person in charge needed to act no differently, whether on camera or off. In both cases, when they first started, there was opposition but later the positives outweighed the negatives.

Many of my teacher-students tell me that it is an invasion of privacy. They complain that it could be used against them. Yes, it could. But if the teacher was acting appropriately, why would that person care who saw it? In this day and time where everyone is suing everyone, I would want as much evidence on my side to protect myself. I know I’m a good teacher and that I work hard. I don’t care who sees what I do in my classroom.

Parents were invited unconditionally at any time as long as they checked in with the administration first (according to school safety policies). This opened up a relationship of trust between me and the parents. Parents felt assured that I was doing all I could to help their child.

There are too many situations where teachers are getting so much bad press for doing terrible things. Maybe the press is only focusing on the bad things but that is what sells news. Maybe we need to focus on how we can get this behavior to stop or at least decrease. If forcing some teachers to change their behavior by videotaping them is one way, then it is time to start doing this.

Do you tape your classroom? Have you ever done it? Has a student ever done it and showed it to you or put it on youtube? If so, please share your experience.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Image: 'Panasonic AG-HVX200'


The Woman said...

I work in a Charter district that serves primarily in detention facilities and residential treatment centers (I work in the latter) and our every move is videotaped. It is for our safety more than anything, but its still there. I don't have any issue with it, its essentially not even there anymore.

(except when I get a call from a student's therapist telling me she liked my dancing skills during a lesson one day, whooooops ;D)

loonyhiker said...

@Cayce I agree. Once you get used to it, you don't think about it anymore. (Glad the therapist enjoyed the dancing! LOL)