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?  


Jacob Smithers said...

Well put Josh. I would agree that the idiots that are made it into the classroom, that are not there for the kids, but for some other reason, have clearly put up a negative flag for teachers all over America.

I have been passing on your blog and story to all teachers that I know in my area, because it is truly an honor to be nominated for such an award, let alone win one. I can imagine how special your time in D.C.was, and applaud you for taking this experience in stride and staying humble. Although the kids have put you there, your decisions, time, & effort have put you above the rest.

I agree whole heartedly that our profession of educational role models has become a "glorified babysitter" in the eyes of some, especially parents. I am constantly amazed at how removed some parents are from the lives of their children, but I can understand that since we spend more time with them than some of their own parents.

Keep up the positive messages and making a difference!!

Unknown said...

Stump, you already know the answer to your final question. How did teaching become such a renowned profession throughout history and in other countries? It was because of students. In the end, that is all that matters. Who are real teachers? The ones that make a difference. The real question we should be asking ourselves is...am I making a difference? If you are not sure, get started our become a capitalist. As far as you Stump, you make a difference in my teaching and that is enough for me. Thank you sir.

Dan Fouts said...

Great post Josh. What can we do to change the negative perception of our profession? We should promote what we do and break down the isolation of the profession. Teaching is still (although I think this is changing) a very insular profession. We spend all of our working lives with other human beings (students) but we don’t have as much contact with other professionals. So, in a strange sort of way, we are alone. Being alone, we don’t have many incentives to promote our great work with others and instead soldier on in our own classrooms, transforming lives in a real way doing so in a way that is unavoidably private... What is the end result? Society never really understands what we do because the private magic of the profession is hidden from the public sphere. So the institution responsible for reporting the outside world—the media—finds dramatic transgressions, illegal activities and other negative things to cover. The irony is profound—the very same people in the media who so skillfully write/report/speak about the bad in our profession are the very beneficiaries of the great teachers who have engendered these skills with them!
So I think the solution is to continue to break the isolation that the Internet Revolution has accelerated.. and we must at every moment showcase our great work.

Brendan said...

Please feel free to search #eduwin on twitter, if you haven't heard about it yet.


Kristen said...

First of all I would like to congratulate you on your achievements as an educator. What you do is great and I apologize that the press performs the way that they do. I have been looking through your posts for quite a while now and have yet to find something in which I could challenge you to (for class of course). You have great thoughts and I agree with almost everything. However, after reading this post, I believe this topic creates a challenge itself. The challenge is not only for you, but for all educators. Keep in mind that the news media is constantly covering stories that are disturbing (murders, robberies, drug abuse, etc.). How often do you read about or see something positive other than in the sports section? Even then, they find ways to deteriorate athletes for any wrongdoing. The presidential debate is the same way. Where are the positives? How can we change this trend? If it takes constantly sending media success stories or examples through video clips, then we as educators should keep doing so until they give in. Maybe that one article or one clip may break the trend? I think you have a great start here with the blogs. Social networking is a good way to begin this (facebook, twitter, blogs, etc.). Once the word is out there, people may show more interest in education. Then, the media will have no excuse to not cover the success of it. Who will be the one to make this happen?