Teachers of the Year Discuss Public Perception of Teachers

We have all heard the polls—while most people think their local/neighborhood school is great, they have a poor opinion of other schools across their states and the nation.  Recently, a group of past and present state Teachers of the Year took part in a three-day intensive discussion about the public perception of the teaching profession and how teachers can change the rhetoric.  The discussion, held on the NTOY Network, and online community of the Teacher Leaders Network, offered several suggestions for what teachers can do to change the public perception of teaching:

Teach.  Great teachers are constantly challenging their students to dig deeper to come to well-informed conclusions.  This skill must be turned upon the community.  “We must become public engagement experts, advocating for our schools, students and profession.  Rather than talking ‘at’ the public, we must actively involve community members in honest discussions…and let them help shape the educational landscape as partners.”

Open our classroom doors.  Web 2.0 technologies have significant power to let the “outside” into our classrooms.  Social media, blogs, and live classroom feeds can help transparency, while responding to comments and messages can help “begin authentic discussions.”  Face-to-face interactions, through service learning projects, community and family partnerships and events, are also extremely important for forwarding the community involvement process.

Help reporters to identify great stories—and why these stories are significant.  We must partner with the media to help us reach and teach a larger audience.  “We teachers have long been accustomed to an egalitarian culture in our profession where no one teacher stands out too much.  For this reason, we rarely highlight what our most effective colleagues are doing in the classroom—and we certainly don’t want to appear to brag about our own efforts…it’s time to get over that.”  The news need not be earth-shattering, but should be framed in a way that explains why the story matters in a local and national context.

Advocate for improved accountability systems.  The taxpaying public has a right to hold us accountable for our work.  Why?  “Because, regardless of their field, professionals strive to improve the outcomes for those they serve.”  Also, by being part of the conversation of how best to evaluate teachers, we can advocate for methods that are research- and best practices-based, and grounded in classroom realities.

The discussion wrapped up with a call to action to take on the tough tasks that are facing the teaching profession:

We hope you—our fellow teachers—are willing to take on the tough tasks. To build relationships with community members and the media. To tell engaging stories and explain why they matter. To gather and share evidence of the work you do, and advocate for changes to transform your (our!) profession. These tasks define the profession of teaching, so in other words, we hope that you teach. Kick open your classroom doors and teach.

To read the full summary of the discussion, please visit http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2011/10/18/tln_classroom_doors.html?tkn=MPXFUtDB6r3VNT9oa8ySVDvaoBUpoCpD0tXO&cmp=clp-edweek