Hanging a screen in your kitchen where the world can peer inside used to be something that only happened on “The Jetsons” or an otherwise forgettable “Back to the Future” sequel. Now, science fiction is fact, and if you’re not careful casually pouring a cup of coffee while wearing your ratty bathrobe could make you the unwitting star of seventh-grade English.
The delayed start of school has come, in most cases, with class schedules at least augmented by online meetings if not completely turned over to Google, Zoom or education platforms such as Schoology. That means students set up with tablets and computers wherever they find space in the house or apartment -- even if it’s space shared by others.
You don’t have to be a sitcom writer to see where this is going.
A video from last week’s meeting of the Palm Beach County School Board that’s making the internet rounds features a scandalized teacher at Boca Raton Elementary School scolding parents for boorish behavior.
“Parents, make sure you have on proper clothing when you are walking in front or behind the child’s computer, because we’ve seen them in their drawers, their bras and everything else,” reported Edith Pride, who also called out adults seen smoking joints (large ones, at that, according to Pride). Only in Florida, right? Well, maybe not.
The virtual workplaces created by necessity due to COVID-19 spawned a whole category of cringeworthy stories, with some of the worst memorialized online. That didn’t necessarily translate to classrooms initially — with the dawning of a pandemic last spring, online instruction in many cases did not involve actual face-to-face encounters between teachers and students so much as posted assignments and shared video. But a new school year is a new ballgame.
School administrators anticipated this. One local district’s guidelines encourage students to change out of their pajamas before logging on for the day, and to do so from a place in their homes free from distraction. It doesn’t say so explicitly but embarrassing parents, siblings, neighbors and pets could qualify as distractions.
At some point teachers and their students will return to school buildings full time — let’s hope sooner rather than later — and we can laugh about all of this in retrospect. Unless, of course, your careless meandering past a child’s computer earned you a cameo on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and a permanent place on the internet.
Parents of remote learning students, beware.