This morning, I’m thinking about trust.
My job doesn’t trust me.
My students trust me; my colleagues trust me; my friends, and certainly my wife, trust me completely.
But not the school where I work. Not the state that licenses me to work with children.
It’s been coming up recently because I’ve been going for some additional licensing, and that means I have to jump through the hoops: prove my trustworthiness, as it were. My fingerprint card for Arizona expired, and so I had to get a new one: because the state wants to do a new background/criminal records check every six years in case I committed some heinous felony and my employer didn’t find out about it. (Also they want me to pay a fee for it, but I assume that’s just passing the cost of the background check on to me, not an attempt to profit off of me. Then again, Arizona is pretty strapped for cash…)
That’s not so bad, though. The larger issue with licensing is that I did, in fact, violate the trust put in me as a teacher: I committed an offense, was found to have committed Gross Neglect of Duty, and my teaching license was suspended for 30 days. So from then until the end of my career, any licensing application, any job application, I have to check Yes on the box that says “Has your professional license ever been revoked, suspended, etc.?) And then I need to explain why. And sometimes, I have to go through a second investigation (When I moved states from Oregon to Arizona), and I need to appear before a panel on ethics, and I need to offer evidence and letters of reference about my character.
My offense? I wrote two blogs, one during class on the school computer while my students were taking a test. That one bitched about how lazy and stupid and frustrating my students were. The other blog I wrote at home, but it included the names of three former students and called them assholes. A violation of trust, to be sure: I should not have used school computers for personal blogging, especially not during class time, especially not to say rude things about my students; I should not have named and shamed three of my former students.
The guy ahead of me at the Arizona ethics panel had been selling his brother’s medical marijuana at school while also carrying on two simultaneous affairs with different teachers.
One panel member called me “morally reprehensible.”
The funny thing for me, actually, is that the closer someone is to my actual teaching, the less trouble they have trusting me even after knowing about this. I tell me students about this, and though they understand that I shouldn’t have done what I did, they also think it wasn’t too terrible. And they’ve never lost any part of the rapport we have in the classroom. The letters of reference I’ve had to get in the years since (This was in 2010, my suspension in 2014) have come from teachers, principals and supervisors, parents of students and from students themselves, and I’ve had a ton of offers for letters that I haven’t needed to accept, but have been gratified to receive. The schools where I taught, there and here, have never had a moment of hesitation about me as a teacher.
That is, until now. And now, the trust issue has nothing to do with my actual misdeeds; now it has to do with control.
My school has decided that I (along with all of my fellow staff members) need to sign in. And out. When we arrive every day, and whenever we leave the campus, for any reason. Now they claim that this is for safety reasons: they apparently need to know who is on campus at all times, in case there is a crisis and they need to do a headcount. To some extent I believe that, because they’ve tried various ways to have us sign in and out in the past, and also I can believe that the school is overcautious enough about crises and disasters to want to have everything arranged that can be arranged in advance; they want to put every duck in a row, even if there’s no point to the row. (I say there’s no point, by the way, because my school is one hallway, with under 40 total staff members. Everyone in the school knows everyone else, and everyone there would already know if I was absent for the day. They’d probably know if I went off campus to get lunch.)
But there’s been a stronger emphasis of late on having us sign in ON TIME. And having us sign out AT THE END OF THE WORK DAY, which for us is 4:20 (Which is still funny every time I say it or write it, no matter how often, no matter how lame the joke is. )
And what’s more, they’ve increased the technical sophistication of our check-in monitor. In past years, it was a sign-in sheet, paper, in the teacher’s lounge. Then it was a Google doc, and then an app on our phones. All fairly reasonable, minimally invasive.
This year they’ve gone to bar codes. And a machine in the front office that reads them and logs us in, and out. The students, by the way, have the same requirements — sign in at the front office, and then out when they leave campus, and back in when they return. But only if they’re late in the morning. Otherwise they just go to class and start their day.
But there’s a problem: while the teachers are required to be on campus until 4:20 (Every. Time. )
the office staff closes up at 4. So we can’t sign out at the official time. The school’s solution is to have the system automatically sign us out at 5pm, even though most of us are already long gone by then, even though some of us stay long past then.
Huh. Seems — unsafe in a crisis, to have an inaccurate list of staff on campus.
The solution to this problem came through yesterday: it is a beacon
that an app which we download to our phones can register when we’re within about ten feet of it. Then the app logs us in. Simple, right? Sure!
By the way, the app asked for my name, email, and a new account registration; then it wanted a picture of my face, another of my driver’s license, my address, my birthdate, my height, weight, hair color, and eye color. Of course anyone who has a beacon linked to this app will be able to register my location, with all of that information, whenever I walk by with my phone in my pocket.
Gee whiz. I do feel safe.