A Phila Science Saga

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 12 2009


Okay, so I’m a little behind in my blogging, so I’m just make up for it by posting thrice today!

On Thursday, Peter, my TFA Program Director, came to my school to do full-period observations of a few of his CMs, including me. From time to time, Peter likes to videorecord the classes he observes so that when we debrief the observation we have a more concrete record of the events we’re discussing. This is especially useful if the debrie?ng isn’t immediately after the observation.

Anyway, Peter came into my 7th period class a few minutes after the class had started. He sat down in the back of the room and setup his video camera. The students noticed very quickly that they were being recorded (why were they looking to the back of the room?) and called me on it:

“Why are you videotaping us?”
“You can’t do that”

I explained that I was the one being videotaped so that I could work to improve my teaching, and that Peter and I were the only two people who would ever see the tape. But they reacted like they were being monitored for behavior or something and the tape was certainly going to be turned over to the police.

Tyrell, who I’ve mentioned before, said “we need to sign a form before you can record us.”

“You should have already signed that form in Advisory,” I explained. “Plus, the form is for media release, and this is never going to be released to anyone!”

Tyrell then walked out of class.

Some other students still seemed uneasy about being recorded, so I asked Peter to put away the camera so that we could concentrate on the lesson.

Tyrell came back ?ve minutes later with Ms. H, a veteran teacher at my school and one of our academy leaders. I told her we’d decided not to record the lesson, so that there would be no problem, but she insisted on pulling Peter and me out into the hall to talk to us. She informed us that we could not record the class without prior parental consent for every student.

I said that every student in the Communications Academy had a signed media release form on ?le.

“Are you sure? And are all of your students Communications kids?”

No I wasn’t sure. But it wasn’t an issue, I insisted, because we had decided not to record.

Long story short, Ms. H took Peter down to an AP who stood over him while he erased the two minutes of tape he had recorded. And I got additional talkings-to from Ms. H and that AP (which is weird because she’s not my academy leader and he’s not my AP). Peter said that he’d videotaped dozens of classrooms across the city in the same way and had never had any issue.

Now I’m not claiming that I was right here. It’s just strange that these events transpired as they did.

The only complaints I had were that Ms. H insisted on taking Peter down to the Main O?ce immediately, so not only did I miss the opportunity to be recorded, but the whole observation was aborted. We’ll make it up this coming week.

Even worse, when she came back with Tyrell, Ms. H announced in front of the whole class “how lucky and fortunate we all were that Tyrell had known his rights and had the courage to seek help from her.”

Tyrell often tries to set me up in power struggles with him, which I can usually avoid. But getting that endorsement from Ms. H was, in his eyes, an enormous victory over me that gave him the right to be continuously disruptive for the rest of Thursday and Friday. I didn’t report this misbehavior or address it to strongly for fear that he would accuse me of retaliation against him.

I hope the long weekend will let his ego return to normal.

2 Responses

  1. wearepennstate

    This does seem odd, but just to let you know- a big issue with my kids and being videotaped is witness protection. Some kids are transferred to certain schools because they are being targeted by criminal activity, or they have informed cops of criminal activity. Therefore, they become terrified when their photos are taken or when they are being videotaped. Don’t take it personally- I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a bigger issue at hand with Tyrell.

  2. mbjohnson

    Yeah, and I don’t want to push anything. I think the whole situation just caught Peter and me off-guard… and the ensuing power struggle was a bummer.

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or, how I closed the Achievement Gap before it closed me.

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