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Media Images of Teachers: Could do better

Monday, September 01, 2014

Aspa Baroutsis, a colleague at the University of Queensland, has just completed a study of how teachers are portrayed in the Australian print media especially newspapers over the past 18 months (AARE website, August 24th 2014). It is not a pretty picture. She found the coverage was often critical and negative with very few ‘good news’ stories being published. Teachers are privileged. Teachers are failing our young people and are incompetent and reckless. Teachers should be more accountable, more regulated.

Of course negative coverage has an impact on the reputation of teachers and could erode public trust for teachers and the teaching profession. This coverage was usually not written by investigative journalists but by editorialists, opinion writers and commentators who “are pushing the newspaper’s socio-political points of view”. In other words these stories were not based on facts but the writer’s opinions.

Teachers have a very challenging job both in their academic responsibilities and in their need to manage young people’s behaviour and to influence the social-emotional development of their students. In the last ten years Governments have introduced national testing, national curriculum, new professional standards, publication of NAPLAN results, A-E reporting of all subjects from Grade 1 to Year 12. Teachers have adapted to this intensification of their work and implemented these changes with very little complaint, despite the extra workload and the implied downgrading of their profession implicit in greater government supervision and scrutiny.

Teachers can only do their job effectively if they have the support of parents and the community. Governments and the media need to stop blaming teachers for what is wrong in education and to support them in their very difficult role. None of us can do our job properly if we have someone looking over our shoulders all the time, criticising and bullying and not giving us the tools and resources we need to fulfil the task involved. The media could start with recognising the impact of this constant barrage of negativity in their portrayal of teachers in our newspapers.

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