- Posted February 24, 2013 by
Constant Negative Portrayal of Teachers in the Media Needs to Stop.
But of the other two stories, one was about a teacher who incorporated slavery into a math lesson (the details of which were unclear), and the other was about a teacher who tricked her students into thinking they were getting a trip to Disneyland. These two teachers were not behaving in a criminal manner. The most they are guilty of (assuming the allegations against them are 100% true) is putting their foot in their mouth. These two teachers may owe their class an apology, and may need a stern talking-to from their administration. But to be humiliated over national news? I am just not seeing how that is justified in these two, and similar, cases.
The disturbing thing is, the daily dressing-down of a teacher seems to be a major trend, and all major media outlets are contributing. I see stories almost every day about teachers whose only major offense was a poorly planned lesson or a thoughtless remark. Obviously, such teachers are not in the same caliber as those who commit sexual misconduct and other heinous criminal acts. As such, I am becoming slowly convinced that the U.S. media is specifically singling out our nation’s schoolteachers for public admonishment any time an opportunity presents itself, whether the teacher is deserving of such action or not.
As a veteran teacher of eight years, I have dealt with my share of parents who have taken exception to my classroom policies or have challenged their child’s grade; this is par for the course in my line of work. There have been times, too, that I have inadvertently said or did something that parents felt I should not have. In about 99% of these cases, the situation was resolved in a way that was satisfactory to all parties (including myself) and life went on (then again, I am not above apologizing when I am clearly in the wrong). Teachers are not perfect-as mentioned, I have made my share of idiotic comments-but the constant demonization of our profession by the media is undermining our ability to properly educate today’s youth. We live in constant fear that some lesson we teacher or something we say will get us in trouble with administration, or worse, put us in the national spotlight. Having to walk on eggshells daily is extremely tiresome, but is part of the job description and I have learned to accept and deal with it. However, this constant barrage of bad press has society believing that all teachers are incompetent, racist, sexual deviant, lazy, and uncaring. Yes, the teaching profession has its share of bad apples, but so does every other line of work. The truth is, most of us want nothing more than to provide your child with a top quality education, and we are doing so with limited time and money resources. All we want is for society to support us. I am not saying that teachers should be allowed to say and do anything they want. I do agree that we should be held to high standards of professions conduct. I also understand that parents want to be extra cautious about the person to whom they entrust the safety and welfare of their child. This is completely acceptable, and I would not expect anything less. But is it really too much to ask that any issues with a teacher be handled as “locally” as possible? In the case of the two teachers above, the issue should have never gone further than the principal’s office.
I am requesting two favors from all major news outlets (CNN, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News, etc.) First, please limit all stories specifically about teachers to actual criminal or ethical violations, and even then, be judicious. Aside from giving the impression that there is nothing else to report (certainly the fine journalists at Fox News and MSNBC can find more interesting, newsworthy stories), publishing a story about a teacher who plays a prank (even one that was admittedly a little mean-spirited) is completely unnecessary, does nothing to protect or benefit students, and contributes to the persistent dwindling of respect for the teaching profession. Second, please do not use the “teacher” in your headline unless it is relevant to the story, as it is as offensive to our profession as a headline that said (for example) “Black Man Guilty of Murder.”We should never see “Teacher Guilty of Murder” in any published news story unless the murder had something to do with his or her job. By doing this, the writer is implying that the murder has something to do with his or her job and that all teachers are inherently bad people. In the case of the teacher in my opening paragraph, the conspiracy to murder the woman’s husband was not a work-related issue and the more appropriate headline would have been “Two Women Conspired to Kill.”
Oh, and it goes without saying that the ethics of journalism call for a fair and balanced view of any story.