I have been reading about this initiative on the WISE website about lifting the public image of education in Chile. They are working on changing the perception of education in the public and increasing the image. It has got me thinking about the messages we send out, often without thinking, which impact on the public image.
I remember asking my students in an inquiry unit, “How do I learn best” about what learning looks like. I was really surprised by their answers. I thought they would talk about working with friends, real life experiences, hands on learning etc. Instead they talked of silence, sitting with one child per table and wait for it….worksheets! Needless to say I was taken back by these responses but I could understand where these messages come from.
Growing up I was told I was great at Maths because I had good recall of my times tables. When people talked about Maths it always related to if I knew the times tables. Of course I thought that was what was most important about Maths. Being a good reader was determined by how long the book I was reading was. “Wow, that’s a big book. You must be a good reader.”
All around us we see underlying messages of what is important. The new National Plan for School Improvement, an initiative by the Australian Government, uses an A+ in their logo. This sends the message that improving schools, and in fact learning, is all about getting an A+. Even if there is more to the plan, the message is clear.
In NSW, the ‘Teachers Make a Difference,” videos are meant to lift the perceptions of teachers in the public eye. Although the videos are great at showing how teachers are more than someone who stands at the front of the classroom there are other messages. The “First Day of School,” video shows the teacher meeting a student on their way into the school, both on their first day. So instead of showing how wonderful teachers are at building relationships with students, the message becomes that teachers arrive at school at 9 am as the students are walking in. I know this doesn’t happen but I have lost count of the times I have been told it must be great to have a job when you only work 9-3.
Maybe the greater message of how teachers change lives or that our government cares about education is more important but we shouldn’t overlook the underlying messages and how they effect how we think of teaching and education.