T&L Advisor Guest post — Henry Thiele, Superintendent Community High School District 99 Downers Grove, IL: One of the challenges in working in education is the ease in which the public can attack schools. I believe that there are several societal changes that have led to the rise of teacher and school bashing:
1. The death of the local free press: It used to be easy to get a reporter and photographer to show up at school to see the awesome things going on. Now a lone reporter, who is spread too thin, tends to only show up when things go wrong. It is the bad news that gets Web visits.
2. Bad news has more places to travel fast: Social media promotes the travel of bad news--especially when it can be delivered in a punchy headline, picture, or video.
3. Schools are just buildings from the outside: The public drives by and sees our buildings but can't easily see what is going on inside of them.
Without evidence that school is different, the public is left to believe that school is a place that is worse than before and headed in the wrong direction. We need to change this perception. What educators don't readily recognize is that the public standard for "good schools" is simply being better than when the community member was in school--5, 15, of 50 years ago. We aren't just better than 5 years ago--we are absolutely amazing in comparison to 5 years ago! The activities teachers do on a daily basis are mind-blowing to the public--once they see them. We need to start sharing the awesomeness of our schools everyday. We need to create a massive outpouring of evidence that what we do is special, important, and good for kids--while burying the negative voices out there. This starts with parents. Send them pictures and videos of their children doing school. Give them a glimpse into the amazing new world of education. Work with your administration to appropriately share this information on the Web and through social media. The press isn't interested in telling the real story of what we do in schools. This isn't bragging, this is about sharing what we really do each day, and allowing the public to see more than just a building when they see our schools.