We’ll file this conversation under “teaching profession” —a dash of bozo teacher.
Representation matters. Examples of proper behavior matter. I can think of two important instances in our culture when the media respectively
One, tobacco ads are largely restricted. Examples in media matter, and smoking is normally the example given. Other representation matters too.
Researchers’ study on eat belt use on television shows gives us more insight. Since Americans watch television for about 1/5 of the day, “the messages that are transmitted regarding transportation safety practices are likely to influence the public’s perception of seatbelt and helmet use.”
How are educators portrayed in media? Two extremes exist: martyrs and bozo teachers.
Television provides tweens and teens with an ample supply of bozo teacher examples. I’m defining a “bozo teacher” as a caricature, a stock character whose students easily baffle him or her and who is simply manipulated, and thus leaves the student winning. The bozo teacher is a simplistic writing tool, a fallback for weak writers of shows whose typical audiences include tweens and teens.
Basically, the writer appeals to its audience by making viewers the winners, and the teachers the losers. It provides impressionable minds with idea that teachers are ‘against’ them and that they do not have allies in their educators. Think of Mr. Belding from “Saved by the Bell” or Ben Stein reading “Bueller.” These teachers are bozos! They can be defeated! The students are winners!
It’s an invention of lazy writers. Why does society tolerate this simplistic view of the teaching profession? If viewers complain, presentation will change. (I realize some viewers are naysayers and support media’s portrayal of educators.)
Imagine if television shows portrayed teachers as allies, as respectful adults in students’ lives. What would that look like? Would tweens (a difficult stage in anyone’s life) be more confident? Would they feel empowered at school? Perhaps as they search for their identities, they would not rely on silly characters in television shows who seek to “get the better” of teachers. Proper role models, realistic life could work—but the writing would be trickier, more inventive than present day.
I saw another example the other day—on during Sprout, a show for elementary kids. Here is the video, where the principal teacher is baffled by the magnetic Baby Stuffies. No teacher would question a stuffed animal and stand at the front of the room, confused.
I’ve used two examples to illustrate where society sees representation as important: smoking and seat belts. Education is as important. First, teachers want to create literate and scientifically educated humans. Second, schools are facing a teacher shortage. No wonder: Young adults have grown up with negative portrayals of the teaching profession.
What if consumers demanded that teachers have accurate presentations? Respected portrayals? At least, fair characters who work in the teaching profession.
What message would that send our children and society? Consumers have the power to change the perception of the teaching profession.
And they should.