Emerging Trend: Smile, You’re On EFL Camera

1467201.jpgA Geek in Korea, whose blog I like to follow, recently posted about an increase of cameras in his work environment – including in the teachers room, which is already surrounded by glass windows. While in some contexts people might say cameras in the classroom are reasonable when children are involved (though it doesn’t seem that “protecting the children” is what’s behind the additional cameras in this case), I think this takes the customer service angle of EFL to a pretty unpalatable level of intrusiveness.

One interesting consequence of the cameras is that school administrators can see when kids are misbehaving and swoop in and discipline them, something which, were I teaching kids again, I would probably appreciate! But the other possible consequences are not so great: the director listening remotely to private conversations in the teachers room? Overachieving parents coming in at their convenience to view multiple tapes and nitpick the teacher’s performance after their child doesn’t perform as well as they’d like?

For me, the point is not that teachers should be entitled to carry out secretive activities, but that being under constant scrutiny is unpleasant and creates an unpleasant work environment.

I’ve worked at a school where the resource books were literally behind lock and key; previously a receptionist would be able to open the vault on request and give you a book, later this ended and the resources were just permanently locked up with the exception of three scheduled hours a week.

Of course it’s wrong to take things that aren’t yours. Was this really an issue – teachers stealing books? Did the school hire people they didn’t trust? It is just hard for me to see the great benefit of locking up resources in an English language school.

I think it’s unfortunate that these “trends of suspicion” have developed. On the one hand, there’s no doubt that some EFL teachers do bad stuff sometimes…but is it right or more importantly effective for schools to hire people carelessly and then treat everyone with suspicion? It seems to me these types of policies are likely to create more problems than they solve.