T Sale's Blog

Monday, February 05, 2007


Today a student of mine made an offhanded comment that I found rather disconcerting, though still interesting. My English 10 students have been reading some King Arthur tales and are currently working on their own original tales. One student informed me, “Mr. Sale, you’re going to be the villain in our story.” This wasn’t what I found disconcerting; I’ve been the villain or hero in a number of student productions. But the student went on to say, “I got some pictures of you dancing from Steph’s Facebook.”

Now I don’t make a habit of dancing for my students. I’m not brave enough to strut my stuff amidst the other faculty dancers at the winter assembly. However…when I introduce Oedipus Rex and Greek drama to my AP Lit students, I have them form the shape of a Greek theater with their desks, and I explain how the chorus used to dance in the area called the orchestra (which in Greek means “the dancing place”), and I walk around in what I guess you could call a minimalist version of the chorus’s dance. When my 10th grader mentioned the pictures, I remembered that Steph (one of my AP students) did have her camera that day and took some pictures. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I guess I’m still living in the round world, rather than the flat one, and it never occurred to me that pictures of me in class would turn up on the Internet.

Of course, one of my first thoughts was of that infamous teacher from Overland whose student surreptitiously recorded his lecture. I thought about how you establish a level of trust with your different classes, a trust that can easily vary depending on the maturity and sophistication of the class. It struck me as a bit of a violation of my…well, not privacy, but of my person, that pictures of me could be published online without my permission. After all, I’m not Lindsay Lohan, and I never worry about the paparazzi. Is turnabout fair play? What if I took pictures of my students and put them on this blog? Sounds like a ticket to early retirement to me.

On the other hand, this is probably the logical next step to student gossip. I know that comments I’ve made to one class, thinking I was talking only to that particular audience, get repeated to me by students in other classes, in other grades. Besides, this could be a new avenue to educational reform: let all the kids have their cell phone cameras out all the time and record and post online everything we as teachers do. Wouldn’t that keep us honest. It would be like a daily “drive by” evaluation by your favorite administrator. If everything we did in class was available for public scrutiny, wouldn’t we make sure everything we did was meaningful and relevant? Would we ever use sarcasm or belittling remarks on a student? Would we ever waste time chatting with them or sharing our own political views when we should be teaching them? Would we ever feel free to be spontaneous or experimental?

Of course I’m getting ahead of my self. I don’t even know if what my 10th grader said was true (guess I’ll find out when I see his project later this week); I wouldn't be able to look at Steph’s Facebook unless she “friended” me (there’s another ugly neologism; isn’t the word “befriended”?). It’s just that I don’t know if I’m ready to have my picture all over the Internet. Especially because I’m not a very good dancer.