Sunday, April 18, 2010

What PR can teach education


When I embarked upon the journey to become a teacher a few years ago, I was initially almost offended at the number of courses I had to take. After all, I was an accomplished Public Relations (PR) and business pro with degrees in History and Communications.

Besides, anyone can teach, right?

Almost three years, dozens of courses, and thousands of classroom hours later, I realize just how wrong - radically wrong - I was.

Hands down, teaching is far more challenging mentally, physically and emotionally than any business endeavor I've undertaken. And without any question at all, teachers are the hardest working professionals I've met, period.

The problem: Much of the public shares my initial thoughts and perception about teaching.

Compounding this problem of perception is the consistent and steady dumping of blame on teachers when something goes wrong - while teachers are rarely praised for all they do right.

So many myths abound in this profession, and we've all heard them: We protect under-achieving teachers; we are scared of accountability; we are afraid of standards and are really just in this for the summers off and "cushy" benefits packages.

The plan: I have a lot to learn about teaching, and I can't wait to get myself hooked up with a mentor and a great district and begin the process of becoming an excellent educator.

However, I am pretty darned good at PR, if I do say so myself. I think changing the tide in what is essentially a battle of messaging begins with educators themselves. When we hear a stereotype repeated, it's our duty to step in and correct it.

This is a hard profession, and we need to interject ourselves into conversations where anything else is being claimed.

We need to empower ourselves and better shape our own collective professional destiny. Again, this begins with an attitude we express to each other, to friends and family, and to our communities.

Next come tools including community outreach, and I believe social media will prove a very effective compliment to traditional media outreach.

But it all starts with our attitudes, and with the way we carry ourselves as professionals. I am so proud to be a teacher, and so honored to enter this noble profession and maintain its high standards of ethics and results.

And I can't wait to share this enthusiasm with anyone who cares to listen.