Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spying, Skynet & Tape

For the past few weeks, I've been trying to set up a meeting with our very, very nice but very, very busy technology head honcho.

He called me back pretty speedy quick, though, after I sent him a little email that asked… "Are you spying on me?" and included a link to the latest unbelievable brouhaha brewing over there in Lower Merion School District in Ardmore, Pennysylvania.

A family there filed a lawsuit against school officials claiming administrators used the nifty little webcam on a school-issued laptop to spy on their 15-year-old son at home.

And now, according to news reports, the FBI has entered the fray and decided to take a little look-see into whether school officials violated wiretap and privacy laws.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer article,  the lawsuit claims that an assistant principal confronted their son telling him he had "engaged in improper behavior" in his home and cited as evidence a photograph shot by the webcam embedded in his school-issued laptop computer. 

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court, According to the lawsuit filed in federal court, school officials could spy on kids indiscriminately by remotely activating the webcams on their school-issued Apple MacBooks without their knowledge.

Jeepers Creepers.  I'm not sure what "improper behavior" was going on, but setting that aside, my own vision of me in a full-home-karaoke-mode-going-on is enough to embarrass the Sam Hill out of me and and make me run to find the duct tape.

This webcam-spying thing also breeds a level of paranoia: What if Steve Jobs can take a gander out there at anybody at any time? Or the Russians? Or the Chinese? Or… Skynet? Or…

OK, OK, OK, so maybe just maybe I've watched one too many Terminators and Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Still, when our technology head honcho called, I had to ask:"Are you spying on me?"

But he was just as flabbergasted as me and everyone else across the country over this spying thing. 

“What part of that idea sounds even remotely OK?” he asked. “When someone said, ‘Hey, we can spy on little Susie or Johnny at home now…’ How does that even sound right? I bet the fallout on this is just beginning, and not just for schools either.”

And now that the FBI is investigating, he’s probably right.

All this spying stuff creeped out some of the kiddos on my newspaper staff who, instead of working on their stories, opted to search for some masking tape to cover the embedded webcams on their computers, you know, just in case.

Monday, February 15, 2010

If You Can't Get Enough…

Just a brief note… Technorati now lists me as a  columnist for its regular feature "From the School House." I have two posts there already. One called "Valentine's Day Brings Out The Love Police" and the other called "Grab A Water Bottle and Forget the Crib Notes and Teleprompters.

Hop on over there and check it out. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snowballs, Snow Storms & Snow Awards

[The scene outside my front door on Thursday, February 18.]

On Thursday, I called my BFF who lives in a necklace (Annapolis), to tell her that we got out of school early, and I almost didn’t make it home because some ninnyhammer was blocking the road.

She wasn’t very sympathetic. 

It probably had to do with the 55 to 80 inches of the white fluffy stuff that’s fallen over that way.  She’s been out of school for a week now and just a tad bit grumpy.

By Friday morning, the 1 to 3 inches of snow predicted for the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex mushroomed into an official 12.5 inches. Of course, all the weather forecasters had excuses as to why they missed the “Snowstorm of the Century.”

Those same weather forecaster  talking heads were blah-blah-blahing that there wasn’t going to be much accumulation on the roadways. They were chatting about that at the same millisecond that I, along with my three other hall monitoring buddies, were watching the kiddos out in the parking lot lobbing snowballs while some poor maintenance worker unsuccessfully attempted to shovel away snow with a shovel that more aptly belonged in the Ag barn.

You would think those weather forecasters talking heads ninnyhammers at least would have popped outside every once in awhile to take a gander at the sky. 

So for that, they deserve the Ninnyhammer-I-Can’t-Forecast-My-Way-Out-Of-A-Paper-Bag-Snow-of-the-Century Award.
Now, back to our little snowball fight… Ours never escalated into an all out melee like over at Skyline High School in Dallas. You can read about it here and watch the free-for-all caught on video by WFAA reporter Brett Shipp here.
No siree, missy, none of that at my school.

Of course, our administrators stayed on top of things. When rumors started flurrying about a planned schoolwide snowball fight, we just didn’t let the kiddos walk outside unless they had to get to the Ag building or the field house. 

It’s amazing what a little common sense will do, and for that, let’s give my principal the Common-Sense-I-Can-Probably-Forecast-Better-Than-Those-Ninnyhammer-Weathermen-Snow King of the Century Award.

And while we're talking about amazing things, one of the freshman principals deserves a very special Neither-Rain-Snow-Nor-Stiletto-Heels-Wearing-Snow Queen of the Century Award for running speedy-quick through the snowy, slushy parking lot in stiletto boots to nab a perpetrator for 
  1. failing to obey the edict to quit lobbying snowballs and 
  2. for sagging.
Of course, it probably helped that the kid’s pants were falling down as our Stiletto Heeled Assistant Principal grabbed him. All that raucous  gave me and my hall buddy Rhonda a chance to chant, “Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground…”

Geewillikers, I love this job.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Juggling, Whining & Jiggles

(Writer's warning: I know I promised this would be a NO WHINING blog, but go ahead and whip out the cheeseboard now because I need to have a brief whinefest. Join me if you wish. We'll all feel better for it.)

I can’t juggle. 

If I could, I would have joined the circus a long time ago. 

When I juggle, I drop something. You know what I mean. I try really hard to stay on top of planning, grading and working on my newspaper, yearbook, photography and journalism classes. I try and juggle those, but just when I get one rocking along fine, the other falls, crashes and burns.

Then there's all that professional stuff I should be keeping up with that's buzzing around the EduSphere. Proposed revisions to No Child Left Behind (oh pah-leese, do we have to take all of them?), stuff on test scores (how about a litttle studying?), charter schools (don't even get me started on those), homeschools (nor these either), public schools (I think that alien thing I wrote about takes care of that), private schools (I probably should stop now)…

Then there’s all that paper work stuff… grade stuff, progress report stuff, email stuff, contest entry stuff, contest practice stuff, budget stuff, supply stuff, trip stuff, stuff stuff. So much stuff stuff, it makes me overstuffed.

Then there’s all this blog and book stuff I try and do.

This juggling thing just isn't happening for me, so I suppose that now running away and joining a carnival isn’t an option for me either. Somehow that fact saddens me that at this point in my life becoming a carney isn't even an option for me any more. 

How did that happen?

I can jiggle though, but I don’t think there’s much of a future in that.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Blame It On The Aliens

Blame it on Mr. Spock’s pointy ears.

Blame it on Yoda.

According to a recent survey, one in three British students, from the ages of 5 to 16, believe at least one of their teachers is an alien — and I'm not talking about the sneaking-across-the-border-kind of alien either.

No siree, Missy. We're talking about the sneaking-down-out-of-the-sky-kind of alien as in extra-terrestrial.
Since I've been teaching for a million light years, I've been called many things in my classroom, but even for me, “alien” is a new one.

Still, a third of the students surveyed think aliens have taken over at least one of their teachers' bodies. Sadly, the survey apparently never addressed why these children believed aliens body-snatched their teachers. 

It does, however, explain quite a few things—things like where all that extra weight I gained came from and why it won’t leave, or why my students stare at me as if I were from Mars. Those kind of things.

So the next time someone starts complaining about teachers, public education, tanking test scores or student achievement, let’s just lay the blame squarely where it belongs—those darn tootin’ fatso aliens.

[A version of this post first appeared on Technorati.]