You don't go to the press. Bad career move.
It appears that is just what Ryan Marie Roberts did last week. Ms. Roberts, a 24-year-old middle school teacher at the Achievement Academy Charter School, got fired. This is not an unusual occurrence--getting canned--unless you're in public education. If a run-of-the-mill insurance broker or desk clerk gets fired, it's not news. A teacher? That's news, especially if you shovel a juicy-sounding story like "secret" taping.
Yes, Ms. Roberts' classroom was being taped by the school, except it wasn't a secret, as Roberts herself acknowledged to the Times Union last week (here). The taping of teachers was planned in August for the upcoming school year, and the school did so openly for the last several weeks.
A second teacher at the school, Carol Connelly, last week quit over the taping and walked out. Her apparent disgust was because she claimed the students told her they "felt violated" over the taping. Maybe Ms. Connelly should have told her students at the outset of the videotaping--assuming they didn't know--since she also knew it was occurring. Quitting your job because the students supposedly expressed unhappiness is pretty thin.
Videotaping as Professional Development
The purpose of the classroom taping is to help teachers improve their performance as part of professional development training. I've seen this done to instruct teachers by reviewing how they taught lessons and how they handled student behavior. I've also seen taping of exceptional teachers for use to instruct other faculty.
The New York Charter Schools Annual Conference, for example, has included videotape of teachers in the classroom for attendees to learn from and discuss.
State Education Commissioner, David Steiner, "strongly endorses the use of video as part of an open, collaborative process to help teachers strengthen their skills," a spokesman at the Education Department told the TU. Steiner, in fact, instituted just such a program at Hunter College in New York City when he was Dean of the Education School.
This is exactly what was going on at Achievement Academy.
It's a wonder videotaping in schools is not more ubiquitous. Cameras in schools and work sites are more common, often for security purposes. But, as any professional athlete will tell you, watching yourself or others on tape is invaluable to improve performance. The same can be said of teachers in class.
Except for the Times Union, which published a fairly balanced story from both sides, the Albany-area media was all over this nefarious "secret taping" of classrooms when it was neither.
Former teachers, Roberts and Connelly, hopefully will find gainful employment somewhere in this economy. Problem for them may be, by going public with their travails about something legitimate that they knew was occurring, it's not the school they hurt.
for The Chalkboard
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