Presentation Title

White Saviors, saints and sinners: Critical media depictions of teachers’ work in 21st century schools

Biographical Sketch

Eleanor Blair received her Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is an Associate Professor at Western Carolina University (WCU) where she teaches foundations of education courses in curriculum, assessment, teacher leadership and history/philosophy of education at WCU and in Jamaica through the WCU-Jamaica program. She is a frequent presenter at regional, national and international conferences and has authored chapters and essays in numerous books and journals. Additionally, she is the editor of four education readers: Thinking about Schools: A Foundations of Education Reader (2011), Teacher Leadership: The “new” Foundation of Education (2011, 2016) and The Social Foundations Reader: Critical Essays on Teaching, Learning and Leading in the 21st Century (co-edited with Yolanda Medina) (2016). She is also the author of A school with a view: Teachers’ work and 21st century schools and By the light of the silvery moon: Teacher moonlighting and dark side of teachers’ work (forthcoming in 2018). Her work utilizes qualitative methodologies and critical pedagogical frameworks to explore teaching, learning and leading in cross-cultural contexts. References to her research on teacher moonlighting, popular culture and the significance of place in the preparation of teacher leaders in rural communities occur in both popular and professional publications.

Type of Presentation

Individual presentation

Brief Description of Presentation

Since 2000, more than 50 films have been released that include teachers and coaches; for example, Freedom Writers (2007), Finding Forrester (2000), The Emperor’s Club (2002), School of Rock (2003), The Ron Clark Story (2006) and my personal favorite, Bad Teacher (2011). Television offers another set of opportunities for infamous teacher roles; for example, Walter White in Breaking Bad (2008-2013), Roland “PREZ” Pryzbylewski in The Wire (2002-2008), Mr. Garvey in Key and Peele (2012-2015), and Mr. Garrison in South Park (1997- present). With a few exceptions, the teachers portrayed in these performances are White, and while the roles vary tremendously from serious to funny; the “reality” is that these characters do little to advance the status of teachers’ work in meaningful, substantive or sustainable ways. And yes, the purpose of these efforts is entertainment; however, it is useful to “know the enemy,” and the “enemy” would be the ways in which Hollywood’s images of teachers reinforce notions regarding the ways in which we address critical issues in education today. Portrayals of teachers as saviors, saints and/or sinners insert these images into the public consciousness where doubts about the integrity of teachers’ work are always present in the political arena where so many important decisions are regularly made about teachers in 21st century schools.

Abstract of Proposal

The depiction of teachers’ work in digital media culture has been previously discussed and analyzed by researchers (Dalton, 2007; Dalton & Linder, 2008; and Dahlgren, 2017). As a classroom tool to promote a critical analysis and discussion of teachers’ work, the films can be useful; students like the “pomp and polish” of these Hollywood influenced versions of reality. However, it is often difficult to challenge students to see the “holes” in these stories; to see the relationship between the dominant normative discourse of policy makers and implicit ideologies that reinforce stereotypes related to race, gender and ethnicity. As such, it is imperative that one consider how to disrupt the tendency for these images to become a part of the public fascination with both positive and negative archetypes that do little to advance the conversation about the teaching profession and teachers’ work in meaningful ways.

It is important to remember that through the tears and triumphs of Hollywood’s teachers, they represent alternative versions of reality that have little to do with the actual realities of day-to-day teachers’ work. The public is hungry for easy solutions to hard problems; they want to embrace the romantic fantasies captured by these stories; they want to believe the story. If how we think about things influences reality; the reality of teachers’ work in film and television mocks efforts to increase the status of the profession and the context, process and product of teachers’ work.

Since 2000, more than 50 films have been released that include teachers and coaches; for example, Freedom Writers (2007), Finding Forrester (2000), The Emperor’s Club (2002), School of Rock (2003), The Ron Clark Story (2006) and my personal favorite, Bad Teacher (2011). Television offers another set of opportunities for infamous teacher roles; for example, Walter White in Breaking Bad (2008-2013), Roland “PREZ” Pryzbylewski in The Wire (2002-2008), Mr. Garvey in Key and Peele (2012-2015), and Mr. Garrison in South Park (1997- present). With a few exceptions, the teachers portrayed in these performances are White, and while the roles vary tremendously from serious to funny; the “reality” is that these characters do little to advance the status of teachers’ work in meaningful, substantive or sustainable ways. And yes, the purpose of these efforts is entertainment; however, it is useful to “know the enemy,” and the “enemy” would be the ways in which Hollywood’s images of teachers reinforce notions regarding the ways in which we address critical issues in education today. Portrayals of teachers as saviors, saints and/or sinners insert these images into the public consciousness where doubts about the integrity of teachers’ work are always present in the political arena where so many important decisions are regularly made about teachers in 21st century schools.

References

Dalton, M. The Hollywood curriculum: Teachers in the movies. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishers.

Dalton, M. and Linder, L. (2008). Teacher TV: Sixty years of teachers on television. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishers.

Dahlgren, R. (2017). From martyrs to murderers: Images of teachers and teaching in Hollywood films.

Start Date

2-24-2018 9:50 AM

End Date

2-24-2018 11:20 AM

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Feb 24th, 9:50 AM Feb 24th, 11:20 AM

White Saviors, saints and sinners: Critical media depictions of teachers’ work in 21st century schools

The depiction of teachers’ work in digital media culture has been previously discussed and analyzed by researchers (Dalton, 2007; Dalton & Linder, 2008; and Dahlgren, 2017). As a classroom tool to promote a critical analysis and discussion of teachers’ work, the films can be useful; students like the “pomp and polish” of these Hollywood influenced versions of reality. However, it is often difficult to challenge students to see the “holes” in these stories; to see the relationship between the dominant normative discourse of policy makers and implicit ideologies that reinforce stereotypes related to race, gender and ethnicity. As such, it is imperative that one consider how to disrupt the tendency for these images to become a part of the public fascination with both positive and negative archetypes that do little to advance the conversation about the teaching profession and teachers’ work in meaningful ways.

It is important to remember that through the tears and triumphs of Hollywood’s teachers, they represent alternative versions of reality that have little to do with the actual realities of day-to-day teachers’ work. The public is hungry for easy solutions to hard problems; they want to embrace the romantic fantasies captured by these stories; they want to believe the story. If how we think about things influences reality; the reality of teachers’ work in film and television mocks efforts to increase the status of the profession and the context, process and product of teachers’ work.

Since 2000, more than 50 films have been released that include teachers and coaches; for example, Freedom Writers (2007), Finding Forrester (2000), The Emperor’s Club (2002), School of Rock (2003), The Ron Clark Story (2006) and my personal favorite, Bad Teacher (2011). Television offers another set of opportunities for infamous teacher roles; for example, Walter White in Breaking Bad (2008-2013), Roland “PREZ” Pryzbylewski in The Wire (2002-2008), Mr. Garvey in Key and Peele (2012-2015), and Mr. Garrison in South Park (1997- present). With a few exceptions, the teachers portrayed in these performances are White, and while the roles vary tremendously from serious to funny; the “reality” is that these characters do little to advance the status of teachers’ work in meaningful, substantive or sustainable ways. And yes, the purpose of these efforts is entertainment; however, it is useful to “know the enemy,” and the “enemy” would be the ways in which Hollywood’s images of teachers reinforce notions regarding the ways in which we address critical issues in education today. Portrayals of teachers as saviors, saints and/or sinners insert these images into the public consciousness where doubts about the integrity of teachers’ work are always present in the political arena where so many important decisions are regularly made about teachers in 21st century schools.

References

Dalton, M. The Hollywood curriculum: Teachers in the movies. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishers.

Dalton, M. and Linder, L. (2008). Teacher TV: Sixty years of teachers on television. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishers.

Dahlgren, R. (2017). From martyrs to murderers: Images of teachers and teaching in Hollywood films.