- After years of teacher blaming in some media outlets, teachers are now getting more sympathy and support, with evidence in polls and sympathetic depictions in news coverage from publications including the The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian and Time magazine, Education Week Reports.
- Some factors driving the change in perception are the impact of social media in humanizing teachers' stories, how most recent protests were more grassroots driven and child-centered – rather than union-driven and teacher-centered – and the growing realization that teachers are not solely to blame for test scores.
- However, some teachers are concerned they are now being portrayed as superheroes or martyrs when they simply want to be allowed to function as properly-supported professionals.
Along with a shifting public perception of teachers, some recent polls indicate growing support for increasing teacher pay. In fact, in the current election cycle, some politicians are banking on that support as they propose tax increases to support salary hikes. Despite teacher protests – which, in the past, have harmed public perception of teachers —the media has looked kindlier on them during the past few months, viewing them as people facing real issues instead of potential problems.
Part of this seems to be the nature of this year’s protests, which were largely home-grown and which portrayed the impact budget cuts were having on children, not just on teachers. Teachers’ unions have been somewhat weakened this year, not only because of the growing strength of teachers in non-union states, but also because of the impact of the Janus decision. Ironically, this weakening seems be strengthening public support for teachers.
Social media has also made a real impact. This demonstrates the power of storytelling on changing public perception, an element schools can make better use of. Statistics and test scores reveal one side of the education equation, but stories of real teachers and students who are impacted by one another provide the human side. And put together, that equals more support from members of the community.