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Letters to the Editor May 8, 2020

Dear Editor,

Madeline Barry in her Brooklyn classroom
Madeline Barry in her Brooklyn classroom

Yesterday, I experienced my first “Zoom bombing.”

For those of you who don’t know, “Zoom bombing” has become an Internet phenomenon since Zoom, the video conference app, has risen to prominence in the age of remote learning. Now don’t get me wrong, Zoom is wonderful in that it provides a vehicle to talk and connect with students. It is the next best alternative to meeting in person. Zooming (yes, that is a new verb) certainly beats communicating via the bland back-and-forth of email exchanges. Nevertheless, the app should come with a USERS BEWARE warning.

I was midway through a remote lesson with the seniors in my English class at my public charter school in Brooklyn, NY, when a “Jadon” requested to enter the session. (Zoom comes with a “waiting room” safety feature in which the person who initiated the session must admit those who request entry.) I have two students named Jaden, and so I figured he was probably one of them and he had misspelled his name.

Boy was I wrong.

The mysterious Jadon was silent for the first few minutes. He did not turn his camera on so he remained anonymous. Then out of nowhere we heard him scream “F*** YOUR MOTHER!” He exited the chat and I, open-mouthed and red-faced, stuttered some sort of apology and attempted to crack a joke about experiencing my first Zoom bomb.

As a teacher, I have experienced upset students who have cursed and stormed out of the classroom. But there are established protocols that follow this sort of behavior. I know how to respond. But in a Zoom session? What was to be done? How could I effectively manage the situation? These are questions to which I still don’t have the answers.

My students definitely got a kick out of it. And after my brief moment of sheer panic, I resumed the lesson.

I am almost positive it was another student of mine playing a prank. I'll probably never know. In the end, humor prevails and it certainly made for a memorable lesson and story. Happy Mother’s Day?

I suppose I have officially joined the ranks of other teachers who have been “Zoom bombed.” Ahh, the era of pandemic teaching!

Best wishes,

Madeline Barry



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