Wednesday, May 9, 2012

We Are Not Newsworthy...


In the past year I have had my fair share of press related to some recognition I have received. I won't post anything here...but google me if you want to know. ;) A majority of it has been in the form of local newspaper articles or online blurbs. While it has been nice, it is not something I sought out or was initially comfortable with. I am nothing special and know plenty of amazing teachers that are far more worthy than I. That being said, I have embraced it recently as a way to tell my story and more importantly the story of teachers and students that don’t get that chance.

Back in March, I attended my state technology conference and stepped in on a media roundtable. Sitting at this table was a key reporter from the four major TV networks in the Chicago market; NBC, CBS, FOX, and ABC. All of these individuals sat and told really nice stories about how they had some personal connection to the teaching profession and unanimously professed their love of the teaching profession. However, they all admitted none of their networks had an education reporter on staff. They went on to say they want teachers to bring stories to them so they can run some “good press” on behalf of teachers. Well, personally, I think it is garbage that we have to bring them a story…isn’t that their job? Regardless, I walked away thinking I would try to bring them some stories and shed some rare positive media light on teachers and education.

Last month I was invited to Washington DC to attend a ceremony at the White House, meet President Obama, visit with Jill Biden and a whole host of other activities. Personally, I thought a teacher getting to meet the President of the United States was a newsworthy item. Let's be honest, regardless of how you feel about the man, this is an honor few ever get. I was really looking forward to sharing my experience as well as how my students are truly the ones that got me to where I am. So, I emailed every single one of the reporters that sat at that media round table…crickets…eventually one of them replied to tell me they were “passing it on”. I even sent another email to members of each of their staff and again heard from just one with the “pass it on” line. To this day, I have yet to hear from any of these reporters that claim to love teachers and want to share the good word. Needless to say, I was frustrated by this. I was hand delivering a positive story and getting nowhere.

My frustration boiled over even further when I was actually in Washington DC having breakfast with all the other State Teachers of the Year. We were eating together and awaiting the first live TV interview with Rebecca, who was just named the National Teacher of the Year. I honestly don’t recall which network was doing the interview but I remember distinctly what they did leading up to her interview. As they were announcing her coming to be interviewed, they ran a promo for an upcoming story on a teacher that fired a cap gun off in a classroom. Here we were about to celebrate one of the great teachers in our country, and the network decided to take a cheap shot and put a story about an ignorant teacher in first. To me this pretty much sums up our media’s perception and priorities in terms of education.

We live in a country where the profession of teaching is rarely viewed as a profession. Teachers have come under fire in more places than we can even begin to count. This perception is largely due to a few bad apples that get all the attention. As with most things in our society, the media truly shapes popular opinion. Yes, I understand that we as teachers can blog, tweet, connect and share our own stories. I also understand that the mass media is in the business of making money and nice stories of great teachers doesn’t make great news. However, I can’t help but feel an intense level of frustration towards media who even to my face say they care for teachers when they clearly do not back that up. When was the last time you watched the news and heard a good story about teachers?

For fear of this post being a complete rant, I wonder what we can do as teachers to establish ourselves as a profession and change the public perception of teaching. How did teaching become an elevated status in other societies around the world? Does the media play a part in that or is it unfair to expect them to help?  
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