Teachers are not as seen on TV

April 16, 2015

The teaching profession has a PR problem. But, unlike a corporate PR crisis, it’s not the kind of erroneous public perception that a bunch of spin doctors can fix. Pay close attention to the dialogue about K-12 education in this country and you’ll easily find that, all too often, teachers are turned into scapegoats by politicians, think tanks, and well-funded political groups seeking to cure educational woes. These pundits, in turn, generate a lot of media coverage about education that disproportionately paints a picture of teaching as a profession plagued with problems. And, of course, when a teacher does something controversial or illegal it always makes headlines; while there is the occasional human interest story about teachers making a difference in the community, most stories about teachers in today’s frenzied news climate are focused entirely on controversy.

And then there’s Hollywood.

Think for a moment about the TV shows you’ve watched; how are teachers portrayed in those shows? Two American scholars have examined how teachers appear on television over the past few decades and reveal in their book “Teacher TV: Sixty Years of Teachers on Television” that “teachers on television tend to be portrayed in a monolithic manner. They become involved with and learn from their students, have a sense of humor, and display an independence from administrators. There isn’t a wide variety of teacher types, unlike teachers in the real world. TV teachers typically have one class that is featured on the series rather than several classes. With rare exceptions, there is little sense of the real work teachers engage in. Also, ongoing issues for real teachers (standardized testing, dealing with students who have learning disabilities, scarcity of resources, school violence, drugs, etc.) become issue-of-the-week situations.”

In spite of all this, surveys show that public school teachers still believe it’s an incredibly satisfying job helping children learn, and Forbes recently reported that teachers are still highly respected by the public “in spite of the perceived war in education cultivated by news media and political pundits that equal a needless victimization of teachers. The truth is that teaching is still a highly respected career, and yet we still lionize teachers in this country.”

The overwhelming majority of teachers are passionate, highly trained professionals who deserve our respect and support to continue to connect with children who will be productive and contributing members of our society.

As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the National Convention of the Parent Teacher Association last year, “Great teachers and great leaders matter more than anything else in school. I think everyone here would agree that we must do even more to respect, reward, and retain them.”

Teacher graphicNext month we will be celebrating National Teacher Appreciation Day at Brandman University, and I invite you to join me and the Brandman news bureau in celebrating the teaching profession. Everyone has had a teacher who made a positive impact in their life, and we want to hear about yours. I invite you to share a story about your favorite teacher by commenting on this blog – tell us how a teacher made an impact in your life, and your story could be featured here on Brandman News Now on Teacher Appreciation Day.

About the Author
Christine ZepposDr. Christine Zeppos is the Dean of the School of Education at Brandman University. She is an experienced educator and administrator, and has been teaching at the doctorate-level for over 20 years.

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