Do you remember seeing your first portrayal of teachers?
I do. As a child, I remember Charlie Brown's teacher portrayed in the comics and cartoons.
Then there was Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Remember? Anyone?
Does the public image and portrayal of teachers affect the prestige of the teaching profession?
Suzanne Labarre, a senior editor at Co.Design, asks "Could a Rebranding Help Give Teachers the Prestige They Deserve?"
It's a crappy time to be a teacher. The budget cuts. The overcrowded classrooms. The infuriating constraints of No Child Left Behind. To add insult to injury, teachers just aren't represented terribly well in the media, whether they're depicted as secular saints with apples on their desks or lazy union-enabled incompetents who hate your children. Could new branding help?
The Brooklyn design studio Hyperakt thinks so and has thusly devised a visual identity scheme that uses the metaphor of "connecting the dots" to portray teachers in a fresh, cheery light.
The images are freely available to teachers under the Creative Commons, Non-commercial license.
The images have a clean, simple, yet attractive appearance, and I would agree with Labarre's opinion that "Hyperakt's design thankfully does away with any hint of "apple crapple." And all the other hokey, borderline infantilizing teacher tropes for that matter: ABCs, chalkboards, cartoonishly oversized pencils."
But can these images have a positive effect on enhancing the teaching profession?
According to Hyperakt's Deroy Peraza,
"That's not to suggest that the design is some kind of quick fix. We won't pretend that a fresh coat of paint on the visual language used to represent teachers is going to solve all of the problems [facing the profession]. But we do believe that attracting the brightest minds to the profession can sow the seeds of change. A visual language that does justice to the intellectual and creative development teachers help guide in students could be a powerful asset in attracting talent to the profession and instilling pride in teachers across the board."
"Connecting the dots allows us to create a boundless visual language that celebrates teaching and learning in a way we can all be proud."
Since public education is a public and societal effort, the teaching profession needs productive relationships with other stakeholders, such as design and marketing firms, that are committed to strengthening public education.
New coats of paint may portray teaching in a new light and may even better highlight the intrinsic rewards and complexities of the work. This type of advertising may even broaden the appeal of teaching as a job or career.
But if these rebranded, future teachers enter the same schools and classrooms of today, they will inevitably face the same challenges that their predecessors faced. New logos will not help schools that lack the support, resources, and funding to meet the needs of their students and communities.
Connecting the Dots to What Expert Teachers Already Know
And, what may be surprising to those new to this effort of improving schools is that contrary to what is often suggested, very subtly, in the media about the quality of teachers, we already have many of "the brightest minds" working to change and improve the profession.
These are the expert teachers who are the teacher leaders in schools.
These educators with "the brightest minds," combined with their practical knowledge of what actually goes on in schools, understand that the real challenge in improving public education is not only to attract "the talent to the profession" but to retain them in the profession to sustain the conditions for change to flourish.
More importantly, we need these "bright minds" and "talent" to enter classrooms adequately prepared for the challenge of teaching, continue to receive professional development to expand their skills and knowledge to refine their practice, and, ultimately, have more opportunities to stay where it matters most- in schools and classrooms with students.
Because it's not just about the teacher; it's about supporting conditions for quality teaching throughout the school to thrive.
This requires systemic thinking beyond the raising the prestige of the teacher; it's about emphasizing how to support and expand teacher expertise and roles for creating and sustaining the public schools that communities need.
And when one "connects the dots" to what the expert teachers advocate for what they need to improve the lives of their students, it might be different from what some policymakers may be saying.
Anything that helps the public "connect those dots" is a welcome addition to these education debates.