Declan got a letter in the mail. I didn’t think twice about it. I opened it right after I opened the monthly notice from the electric company telling me,”You used 4% more energy this year than last year.”
Declan’s letter wasn’t a bulk notice from the school. It was a personal letter filled with frogs and the names of all Declan’s classmates–his first letter from his new second grade teacher.
I read it and smiled. There was a welcome note and a small list of supplies, “But I have plenty if you need them,” along with some topics they’d be studying this coming year. Now we can get excited about second grade.
“School’s dumb,” Declan said. I like school. We’ll agree to disagree.
I realized something. The letter was hand-addressed to Declan. It was, in fact, the first letter he’s ever received other than postcards from Grandma, and I’d opened it. A federal offense, to be sure. Tampering with mail. An invasion of privacy.
This isn’t the first time the issue of privacy has come up. “This is MY room. Get out! I want PRIVACY!” It’s a frequent conversation during time outs.
I explain the room isn’t, in fact, “his.” It’s mine. I pay the mortgage. He pays nothing. Neither the deed nor the mortgage has his name on it. Therefore, I lend him the room. He has no reasonable right to privacy.
I feel a little bad about the letter but since he doesn’t care, I won’t point out the rights I’ve violated. Big Brother is indeed watching.
It’s good to teach him now. Privacy is an illusion. I teach this to my students as well. This generation’s much more comfortable being constantly in front of a lens, but they don’t always know how to handle the paparazzi syndrome. Anything we do can be altered, photoshopped, skewed, shown, morphed, and exposed. Often, I’ll walk up the two ramps to my classroom and wonder if I just picked a wedge or scratched the side of my nose. “It was not a pick!” I’d say as the film rolled. It’s always on film.
“Live your life like any moment could be on the front page of the New York Times,” I tell students.
“Huh?” I forgot, they don’t get newspapers anymore.
“The Huffington Post. World Star. The news…”
One day, I did an activity with them. I logged into several of my social media platforms and projected them on the board. “Anything controversial?” They hunted–a giant game of “Where’s Waldo.” They came up empty.
“Okay, next question…which social media platform would you search first if you were looking for dirt on me?”
“Give up?” They do. I tell them the answer. “None.” Their faces fall. They’re really hoping for some Throwback Thursday classic photos that might incriminate me. Things from the olden days when I was in high school. Truth is, I was as lame then as I am now. There are, indeed, unflattering pictures–I don’t photograph well, but there are none where I’m misbehaving.
“Nowhere, because it doesn’t exist. That’s how you have to live, too.” I tell them I, as an employer, will check their social media. I tell them a story about how I had three social media platforms fully inspected before I even knew I was being considered for a job. It’s the new way of the world.
Privacy is an illusion. The only way to defeat the cameras is to use them to your advantage–live a good life. Live the type that will help and inspire people if the world knew what you were up to. I don’t know if students are hearing me. Maybe a few recorded the speech and put it on YouTube to tweet out later. Who knows?
Suddenly, though, I don’t feel so bad about this letter. It seems more like a training tool than an invasion of privacy.
Kids have to learn these things sometime. Might as well be now.
[photo credit: wikipedia via Avery “No Photograph” stickers]