Can I Get A WTF?!

Pardon the language, friends, but I hope you appreciate my restraint in using an acronym. No? I guarantee that once you read this, you’ll be throwing around your own “WTF” or any other incredulous statement of choice. Trust me.

Recently, a reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) emailed moi about some disturbing new happenings going down at her school. When our fellow Super Colleague returned to work, she learned that her school would be putting surveillance cameras in every classroom, the hallways, and the parking lot. She was informed that not only would the school office be able to watch it, but that Central Office will be able to see it as well.

I know. Take a deep breath.

I’m totally on board with the parking lot thing. It gets dark crazy early in the winter and in general, I think parking lots are shady. We won’t even get into my somewhat irrational fear of parking garages but, honestly? No good can come in those shadowy, creepy places.

I’m on the fence about cameras in the hallways. Some schools are bananas in between classes and maybe cameras would help with security and/or be Big Brothery enough to dissuade sticky fingers and nasty mouths.

But cameras in the classrooms?


My first thought? I have former Super Colleagues who have PUMPED on their preps in their locked classrooms (while simultaneously correcting papers or checking email because we are awesome with a capital Kick Some Ass). Who wants to see that? I take that question back. I don’t what to know who wants to see that. But still. Pumping is an act that cannot be unseen.

My next thoughts? Holy crap, what are they thinking?? What is the purpose behind these cameras? Is this the ultimate in “accountability”? Has the Teacher Bashing gone so far that we now want to watch teachers every single move? Because we’re all raging morons who hit kids, pick our noses and talk on our cell phones while all hell breaks loose as soon as no one is looking?


As if morale wasn’t low enough in our profession, this teacher clearly feels violated and resentful of the presence of cameras in her classroom. She asks:

How is the district affording this when they have laid off a large number employees this summer?

Are the administrators going to have cameras in their offices and let us watch them pick their noses, too?

Is it 1984? I thought that was just a book scenario.

Do they really hate us this much???

It’s that last one that really gets to me. How many other teachers are entering their school year thinking that their own administration hates them? What kind of culture are we creating for teachers as professionals??

And who is watching these cameras? Did this district hire an entirely different group of drones to sit in front of TV screens while simultaneously firing classroom teachers due to budgetary issues? Are we going to have cameras to watch the cameras to make sure those individuals are also held accountable? Are we going to have cameras in the homes of our students to make sure their parents feed them a reasonable breakfast, help with homework, read to their children, feed them a nutritious dinner and put them to bed at a decent hour?

Riddle me that, Batman.

I second Angela over at The Cornerstone when I say that my classroom was my sanctuary. It was my home away from home. It was (hopefully) my friends’ home away from home. And that meant that sometimes we were sitting together in a circle discussing a behavioral issue instead of working on math, and sometimes we lost ourselves in the joy of a story and began science a little later than planned and sometimes we were just plain being silly in the way that only seven and eight year olds can. If these cameras are a mechanism for “increasing efficiency and accountability” and making sure that teachers stick to a rigid schedule in the name of covering more material and pushing pushing pushing, then today is a sad day.

Thoughts??? I know you have them…

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  • I have worked in a classroom with 3 cameras and audio access for 14 years now. I love it, love it, love it. I do my job and no one can question anything I do with the kids. BTW, the entire day, each day is taped and saved.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm
  • I worked in a private school for four years (the last 4).

    There were cameras in the classroom, in the hallways, in the parking lots etc. But, most importantly, IN THE CLASSROOM.

    At first, I really freaked out about it and felt very "invaded." But, it ended up being something I didn't think about. Here is how I dealt:

    1): Figure out the exact angle of the camera. If you need to pump, pick a wedgie etc. do it outside the reaches of the camera.

    2): Sometimes random object fly and knock the camera angle (or, you know brooms). Not that I have any experience, but if you stand under the camera you can shift it with a broom handle and not be seen.

    3): To record what happens in your classroom they would need tons (read $$) of tapes. So, while they make claim they record, the most likely do not. This means the camera is real time. No go-backs or do overs.

    4): The video quality is probably very crappy, or a time-delay of "every 5 seconds." Mine was that way.

    5): In theory, it keeps you very safe. It makes it hard for kids to lie about anything. Teacher: "So, when I check the camera video it won't show you throwing that crayon?" Bluffing is awesome. It also helps keep kids honest about what did/did not happen in a one-on-one situation with a teacher (which, you know, I encourage you to avoid).

    6): It is HIGHLY doubtful there is any sound. To pick up the sound quality in a manner in which a true "observation" could occur means that there must be high quality sound equipment. . .Which, I highly doubt. This means, you will just be seen and not heard. That is a plus if you are worried about admin dropping to hear you say "CLEAAAAAANNNN UUPPPPPPP." or whatever you yell about.

    7): The cameras at my school went largely un-monitored. It was more about "we can claim we do this."

    I promise. It isn't as bad as it seems right now. It is just bureaucratic nonsense.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm
  • You can get a GIANT WTF!!!!!

    This is absolutely absurd! It seriously has made me sick to my stomach.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm
  • Wow! That is a whole new level of awful. The school where I work has cameras in the hallways, which have definitely come in handy with identifying students involved in fights or other hallway shenanigans. However, I would feel totally violated to have a camera in my classroom, even though I have absolutely nothing to hide. I have no problem with administrators dropping in my room at any time, but a camera would feel creepy. This teacher raises some good questions, and I have to admit that I have often asked myself the last question, too. I will be starting my 7th year of teaching in a troubled school district, but from day one, I have felt that the administration hates and doesn't trust teachers, that we must be monitored and punished for our students' shortcomings. It is not a personal thing but a general professional distrust…my colleagues feel the same way. If I had known that this is what being a teacher means, I never would have entered the profession. But I love my students and I enjoy actual teaching (not the politics), so I will stay for now.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm
  • Buy books! Buy laptops! Buy Ipads! Buy paper!

    The money being wasted on these cameras and the monitoring of them is a sin. Plus, what adminstrator has the time to watch these cameras, not one effectively doing his/her own job. If you have time to watch a camera of someone else doing their job, then you must not be doing yours or your job is not that important and should be re-evaluated.

    If you want to see what happens in my classroom, get out of your office, come to my school, walk down the hall, and take a seat. You will always be welcomed to watch the magic live, but not on video tape!

    August 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm
  • I'm not comfortable with the idea of cameras. I mean, the administrators would know how late I stay then!

    August 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm
  • All I can say is, OMG WTF! That is pathetic! I guess many day cares have them these days and parents can watch via the internet. Freaks me out actually, even when I took the opportunity to watch occasionally. I totally get your concerns though. I wouldn't want cameras in my classroom whatsoever. Yikes. Fill us in on what happens. I know you will. 🙂

    August 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm
  • I hear all of you out there who are shocked! Ms. Amy – thanks for all those helpful tips – love to see you in action with that broom handle!! Donna C. – thanks for sharing the other side. I'd love to hear more about how cameras were used in your school and why you loved them. If they make a positive impact, I'm all for it. None of us should be ashamed of what we do in our rooms. However, in this particular situation, it seems as if the administration needs to put forth a clear message regarding the reasoning behind the cameras, how they will be used, etc. We are all so jaded from the teacher bashing that I don't blame everyone for assuming the worst. Plus…what are parents going to think about all this?? Something to chew on, right?

    August 24, 2011 at 12:52 pm
  • I am an elementary special Ed teacher and I do pull out academic intervention with kids from K-5. Sometimes my kiddos just need to lay down on the sofa and decompress instead of reading that sight word book for the fifth time today. Sometimes we just play with legos instead of working on one to one correspondence because 6 hours of academic time is too much to ask of a 6 year old with Developmental Delays. I know lots of people (the other teachers in my school included) who wouldn't approve of this…especially not central office staff. My door is always open and I welcome people to come in and talk to me about what I'm doing, but I think just watching what it looks like I'm doing on a camera with no explanation from the teacher is about as effective an assessment tool as standardized testing is for a kid with a 60 point IQ. (and yes, my kids with IQs of 60 still have to participate in state testing.)

    August 24, 2011 at 6:32 pm
  • Is it possible the city/state got Homeland Security grants to put these in? It may have been they had the opportunity to spend some non-ed budget dollars and they took it.

    To those worried about money spent on tapes–it's almost certain that they are saved to hard drives on the server which would be cheap. I would guess they save 1 week or less unless there is an incident.

    However, if the cameras were installed for safety reasons on a grant's dime, that should have been communicated so everyone would feel protected instead of invaded. And if it's done to monitor the teacher in the way we all fear? Well that just blows.

    August 24, 2011 at 6:32 pm
  • That is seriously scary. AND infuriating! You raise some very good questions. That money could be saving someone elses job. What is the teaching world coming to?

    August 25, 2011 at 2:09 am

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