Teachers cautioned about how they behave in the classroom

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Internet site YouTube can turn everyday people into global celebrities or worldwide fools. Educators in Utah and across the country are warning teachers to watch themselves so they don't become the next YouTube sensation.

Nearly all of us are armed with cameras in our cell phones. They're great tools and good fun, but in classrooms they've captured colossal meltdowns and privacy.

Passing notes is so passé; it's all about cameras in the classroom these days. Losing their cool is not the image teachers want to show to the world in a few seconds of YouTube fame.

The exposure fades, but the National Education Association warns teachers about a "flurry of embarrassing attention and community pressure" that can get a teacher fired.

A search on YouTube did not reveal any damaging videos of Utah teachers, but Utah Education Association General Counsel Michael McCoy says he knows of a case where a student did film a teacher doing nothing behind the desk. The student showed it to administrators, and the teacher was fired. He said, "The fact is the teacher is the star in the classroom, the students are the audience, and the world is now the audience… Anything they do and say in the classroom may become public. So, they just have to anticipate that somebody will be using a cell phone."

School policy often prohibits cell phones in class. But McCoy said, "Students will try to get away with it. So, sooner or later, every teacher in the state is likely to be videotaped by one or more students."

Search YouTube for "angry teacher" and you'll find teachers behaving badly. In a KSL.com poll, about 30 percent told us their children brought home pictures or video shot in a classroom.

Sometimes students egg on their teachers, trying to get them explode just so they can capture it.

"Some of the pictures and photographs are taken out of context to make the teacher look ridiculous. But, the reality is, there's no way to stop it," McCoy said.

NEA General Counsel advises teachers:

  • May be taped
  • Stay on your toes
  • Never overreact
  • Don't personally or physically punish a student

As McCoy says, "Be on your best behavior and it solves a lot of problems."

Many districts are creating and updating policies, but McCoy advises teachers to assume they're being photographed and act accordingly.

This story compiled with contributions from Jed Boal and Mary Richards.

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