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Teachers, Don't Just Consume Media. Create It.

This is the second of a four-part conversation on how teaching and the media intersect.

Brian Sztabnik

It is easy to label the media's portrayal of teachers as negative and unfair because we often remember the sensation stories rather than the personal ones. If anything, the media is a paradox, fair and foul, foul and fair at the same time; with new formats like blogs, podcasts, and social media, the landscape has expanded to include more voices on more channels.

Just as cable news did for consumers two decades ago, educators have a new level of news customization. They are longer tied to the stalwarts of print, radio, and tv. Now, they can self-select the news that fits their purpose from a Facebook scroll or a Feedly feed. And just as with cable news, the diversity of it all offered the promise of broader perspectives and greater understanding, it also reinforced the perils of narrow-mindedness and limited empathy. The power is with the consumer.

A power exists beyond consumption, though. These new platforms like blogs, podcasts, and social media have given teachers the potential to be the medium. Why cling to static headlines about charters vs. public schools, unions vs. politicians, and national standards vs. localized control? Now they can write their own headlines about being a black-Latino middle school math teacher. They can blog about being an American teacher in Finland. They can guide others through the path that technology is cutting in education. Or, they can act as muckrakers, pointing out the alliance between business, politics, and education.

The power players like The New York Times and the Washington Post will still command the most eyeballs. And they must be commended for the way in which they balance the personal with the powerful by highlighting stories of teacher successes and struggles right next to the large-scale issues of policy, politics, and reform.

Yet I hope more and more teachers will turn to sites like Edutopia, which is on a simple mission to share what works in education in a apolitical way. I hope they will visit The Teaching Channel, which offers teachers the chance to learn from each other by providing a broad range of videos to encourage better practices.

In doing so, I hope they customize their content in a way that sends a message. While we still need reports on the sensational items like sex scandals and rubber rooms—because we cannot ignore our shortcomingswe also need to add our voices to places that offer inspiring ideas and uplifting stories from those that best exemplify what it means to be a teacher.

Brian Sztabnik is a high school English teacher at Miller Place High School on Long Island. He hosts the podcast Talks with Teachers, and blogs for Edutopia.  He can be found on Twitter at @TalksWTeachers.

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