Camera Phone? Bring It!

In a stack of papers called Reform.

  • Apr
  • 15
  • 2007

Students! Do you have a video camera on your cell phone? Bring it! All I ask is that before you post anything about me to YouTube, let me know and send me a copy of it. Send it to me anonymously if you’re scared of repercussions (but I never let personal feelings affect grades). I need to know what I’m doing so I can make changes or prepare explanations.

Teachers! Do you blow up at your students? Then you deserve to be on YouTube! Get a hold of yourself and start acting like professionals.

So here’s the deal: my union wrote a warning in a recent newsletter about students with cameras, advising teachers to be aware and even to go so far as to institute policy prohibiting use of them. Really, it should have been a warning to angry teachers. It should have been a notice to teachers that they need to behave, that they need to focus on their job and handle stress in a more positive fashion.

Camera phones aren’t the problem. Angry teachers who berate their classes are. I watched a few of those videos on YouTube (just search for “angry teacher” and you’ll find ’em) and they disturbed me. That kind of behavior should be documented.

I don’t mind knowing that my behavior could be caught on a student’s camera and posted for the rest of the world to see. That pressure just might keep certain teachers in check. For the rest of us, we don’t have anything to worry about. A video of a teacher running a class in a typical manner doesn’t make for good YouTube fodder.

What if school districts and teacher unions embraced this phenomenon? What if there were sites set up for students to submit their footage for review by the district or union? Sure, this wouldn’t stop students from posting these videos to YouTube. In fact, the school site could be set up just to submit links to videos already on YouTube.

What I’d like to see is students put in the position to use their technology to inform those who need to know. That video students took of the latest fight could be useful in trying to prosecute and identify those involved. It also would allow administration to know what’s out there and prepare appropriate ways to respond.

The information, much like the spice, must flow. Schools need to be prepared to receive information just as readily as they dish it out.


1. Em says:

[4/16/2007 - 4:29 am]

I completely agree. We are professionals and should act as such, although I can completely understand how people loose it sometimes!!!

However, I’d hate for students to feel they have the right to criticise and analyse everything we teachers do – how can they when they only see ten percent of the world of education. The rest is done in our heads, on our laptops and during all those “hours off” we teachers get.

Yes all teachers and professionals need to be accountable – what about the students? What if we recorded all their behaviour and sent it home to parents? Would it help or would it create dissent?



2. tom says:

[4/17/2007 - 6:51 pm]

I believe this is the issue:
1) Its illegal for them to use electronic recording devices without the instructors’ permission.
2) It is illegal to record anyone’s voice without notifying them.
3) It is illegal to post images of students for the public to see without the parent’s permission.
What ESTA was pointing out was that a group of students were coordinating in a class to get a teacher to blow up, specifically to film it.
That’s not students trying to get vital information to those who need to know. Its students acting like A-holes. Try teaching a schedule of comp/lit classes and see if you wouldn’t snap at a student.

3. Todd says:

[4/18/2007 - 12:12 am]

Posting images of other students for the public to see is a huge problem. My friend and I looked at a video tonight that was shot by an obviously proud parent of an elementary school girl singing a song at a talent show. But if I was the parent of one of the other students caught in that same video, I’d be pissed that she’s now on YouTube without my permission. Can users flag videos as inappropriate on YouTube? Do they have any monitoring in place at all?

What if we were able to use this kind of trend of posting videos online as a way to keep track of what’s happening on a campus? I realize that it requires a whole lot of honesty from students and that there’s a small core of those students who are simply not honest. There’s some integrity that must be encouraged in order to make this work, but what if we try? We deal with the students acting like jerks and find a way to be left with those videos that we can actually use. Even that video of the teacher provoked to the breaking point can help us learn a thing or two.

I get it, I really do. I also know that I’m insulated in that I teach juniors and seniors for the most part. However, it’s never OK for a teacher to blow up at students in the ways I’m seeing happen on YouTube, provoked or not. And the students in all of those videos certainly do show themselves to be disrespectful and rude (to say the least), possibly not victims at all. Still, with the control that teachers have, exploding like that simply cannot be allowed.

As usual, Tom, thanks for pointing out some other issues that I do understand and agree with, even though I don’t make that clear in my post.

4. Marco Polo says:

[4/18/2007 - 3:13 am]

Sounds nice. Wait until students start taunting/teasing teachers, just to get a response which they can then video and post to YouTube then go to court and get that teacher fired. Will you still sing the same song?

5. Todd says:

[4/18/2007 - 8:08 am]

We’re a long way away from YouTube videos getting a teacher fired. Let’s not be overly dramatic.

Marco, that’s the point that I just conceded in the comment above yours. However, I hold firm that a teacher should not have outbursts like the ones I’m seeing on YouTube – no matter what.

If a classroom is such that the teacher doesn’t have any respect from the students, so much so that they want to push that teacher hard enough that they can make a YouTube video, there are more problems going on there than can be blamed on a video Web site. Either the teacher really does need to be let go due to lack of control of the classroom or those students need to be in another setting due to their intense problems with authority. Both of those point to a failing in this system that needs to be addressed and admitted.

6. Neville Chamberlain Weighs in on Cell Phones in Florida Schools at says:

[4/18/2007 - 12:37 pm]

[…] Todd Seal at Thoughts on Teaching has a different approach. […]

7. Jessica says:

[4/18/2007 - 12:57 pm]

While agree that it is inappropriate for a teacher to “blow up” at a class, I can understand the frustration and stress behind it. It is also the case that there are some schools, like mine, where nearly the entire student body has a real problem with authority. The students at my school smart off to each other, teachers, parents, and principals with no real consequences.
I try in my classroom to keep it to a minimum, but without administrative support, it is extremely difficult. And I know my school is by far not the worst.
So before you go and say that these people obviously have deeper issues in their classroom, you should put yourselves in their shoes. If you have been there and managed to never “yell” at a class, you are more of a saint than me.

8. Todd says:

[4/18/2007 - 1:34 pm]

Like I said, there are deeper issues there. The fault placed squarely on the shoulders of the teachers was only one of the possible deeper issues I suggested. If the students are the ones with deeper issues, they likely should not be in a traditional classroom. These videos also show that to be true.

I’m far more understanding than you think and I’ve had my moments. Standing here, though, every single one of those moments where I’ve yelled should have been handled a different way. Every single one. Understanding the frustration and condoning the behavior are not the same things.

But no one is picking up on the other issue I suggest: we need to allow videos to show us things about the campus. While students might not talk to staff about things, showing a video clip of a bully would be much easier. If there are countless videos of Mr. X blowing up, we need to take a closer look at both Mr. X and his students. If we see countless videos of fights happening that we never arrive in time to break up, we need to take a closer look at the environment. Student-created videos can show us things about out schools that we’d never see otherwise.

9. spudbeach says:

[4/20/2007 - 9:06 am]

Em posted:

> However, I’d hate for students to feel they have the right > to criticise and analyse everything we teachers do – how > can they when they only see ten percent of the world of
> education.

As a teacher I am constantly trying to get my students to criticise and analyse everything. Why should I have them stop when it comes to me?

But maybe that’s me — I’m a physics teacher, and believe that questioning is good — yes, even question Einstein and especially their teacher. Perhaps in theology and the other “just believe me” disciplines it’s different.

10. Sunny says:

[12/31/2007 - 10:13 am]

Here here, Todd. I wholeheartedly agree. I taught science for 7 years and I’ve been a BPS principal for 3 years. It is NEVER appropriate and yes I have blown up on occasion and every single time I apologized. Even when I was “justified,” I told the kids that and still apologized. Because while it is explainable, it’s not excuseable. And, when a teacher has a great relationship with their students, like a great parent and child, you can blow up, make a mistake, make up, forgive, and move on. I would bet my students would not post me on YouTube if it was handled that way. We did have a fight posted on YouTube that was broadcast on Fox25 this year and while it was a horrible incident, it was a great learning experience for our students to look at why it was posted, who looked at it, who watches Fox, and what perceptions are of urban teens in Boston Public Schools. It was a very powerful lesson and wouldn’t have happened without the initial series of “mistakes.” Mistakes are real life. Let’s learn from them. Bravo.

11. jcr4runner says:

[2/23/2008 - 8:55 am]

As a teacher, I LOVE to be able to video-tape my student’s behavior and post it on the Internet for their parents and friends to see.

The problem is that it is illegal.

You are actually arguing that teachers ought to be scrutinized by “Big Brother” with cameras and that students should post it on YOUTUBE?

When students disrespect their teachers, they sometimes blow-up and yell a them, once or twice a year or even frequently. If someone video or audio-tapes it and posts it on the Internet just to embarrass the teacher, the students ought to be severely disciplined.

If you don’t agree then fight for my right to show my side of the story by posting the crazy things that students do on a daily basis. That would be great for me because it would greatly enforce classroom management.

12. Todd says:

[2/23/2008 - 10:51 pm]

You see, I don’t think classroom management works that way. Yeah, it’s illegal to post those videos of student behavior, but even if you could do such a thing I highly doubt it would result in what you wish. It would likely erode classroom management.

That teacher who blows up and yells at the students (your fourth paragraph) is wrong every single time it happens, no matter the frequency. The teacher should use that video to figure out a way to deal with the situation better next time. Frankly, it should embarrass the teacher. Yelling at the students does not help classroom management and every time I’ve done it (far more than my fair share) I’ve seen that. There is always a better response than blowing up.

And you have a right to show your side of the story. Blur faces, lower pitches of voices, get parental permission, talk with your principal. It’s more complicated, but it probably should be.