One of my wife’s favorite musicians Ani DiFranco once wrote, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” She also said, “The media is not fooling me.” She was onto something then and now.
In a previous blog post I mentioned how the defunct public school system is in need of a major overhaul. Our country’s perspective on teachers needs to change for progress to be made in the area of public education. Teachers are viewed as public servants whose job it is to take care of kids or make them smart. The problem is, those ideas are not accurate nor true, but it is what many people in America seem to think about teachers.
All of the teachers I know, myself included, don’t look at our jobs as jobs. Being an educator is a lifestyle. To be a great teacher, one must be a great student, always longing for more information and new ideas. This takes time and effort. I spend most of my unscheduled time during the academic day and during my “off” time reading, researching, writing, planning, and talking about teaching and how to better support and challenge my students. Great teachers care about their students and their “job” very much. However, in recent years in our country, many American citizens don’t see this. When things go wrong with their children or society, they blame schools and teachers. Of course, there are bad teachers and failing schools in this country, but the same can be said about almost any country in the world regarding any profession. Why generalize and past grand judgment on all teachers? Why not celebrate the great teachers and profession of teaching so that more young people will want to pursue a career and life in education. Now it seems as though no one wants to become a teacher because of all the bad publicity. Retiring great teachers are even advocating that young people thinking about going into education should change their life path. Why is the field of education and the profession of teaching being so lambasted?
The media is partly to blame for this. When one bad person makes a horrific mistake, everyone under the umbrella suffers. This bad press and poor coverage makes teachers and schools look bad, as if they are failing our country. Then, people start to question teachers, and the respect paid to educators drops. In many other countries, teachers are highly paid and respected by society. Becoming a teacher in some countries, is one of the greatest honors. In America, it seems as though becoming a teacher is a laughable offense. With movies like Bad Teacher and television shows in the vain of Those Who Can’t, the teaching profession becomes a scapegoat for failure in our country. Society has lost respect for us and what we do. With that loss of respect comes broken relationships and partnerships. Families and communities stop trusting schools and teachers. We’ve seen it happen over the past 20 years in our country. The number of families choosing to homeschool their children has increased exponentially. This trend of disdain and distrust for teachers and the public school system in our country needs to stop.
If change is to be made in the education sector, then the way the media perpetuates teachers and schools needs to change. We don’t need more shows or movies about bad teachers. We need more coverage that shows the great things teachers and schools around the country are doing. Let’s stop focusing on how other countries and teachers are doing great things and start looking at all of the wonderful things happening in our country. Then, perhaps, schools will improve, and teachers will gain respect. This transformation, will then, of course, be evident in the future as our students will go onto to do great things like creating peace and finding solutions to problems throughout the world.
So, it’s time to get angry and do something about the way American society views teachers and the educational world. The media has fooled us long enough. It’s time to take back what is ours: Respect.