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Heather Wolpert-Gawron Headshot

Teachers As Publicists

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I know we wear a lot of hats already, but I believe that we as teachers need to don a new one, that of publicist. After all, looking at the villainization of teachers in the media, and frankly, the questionable decisions by many who claim to represent our interests, it's clear that we need to take control of our own reputation. Therefore, we need to pick up our own megaphone and learn to wield the power of publicity in order to promote our accomplishments on our own sites, in our own districts, and of our own profession.

In fact, teachers have more control here than they realize. For the fact is that once enough teachers on a staff commit to publicizing successes, an entire school culture can change. And a school with enough proud teachers who are publicly appreciated trickles to the students within that community, and enough schools with pride can help evolve education as a whole.

I'm not asking teachers to change how they practice. I am encouraging them to change how they brag.

Every teacher at every level should learn how to pitch what's working in their classrooms, because it's up to them, those closest to the students and their growth, to learn how to get the best out there so that the outside world doesn't come to it's own conclusions.

Early on in my teaching career, I discovered that there are different elements to teaching that I love and some I don't. The parts I love are the students, curriculum creation, life-long learning. The parts I don't, however, are the isolation and the negative reputation, and I hate feeling the victim. Therefore, I began reaching out in my voice and my writing. You can too. Or, if that's not for you, there are other ways to publicize the coolness that is going on in your classroom. After all, it doesn't matter the size of the pond; just be a respected member of it.

So let's get to the nitty-gritty and talk about different publicity strategies:

1. Contact the education editor of your local newspaper. A publicist friend of mine, Beth Cleveland, of Elm Public Relations, said that your verbal or written pitch should be the equivalent of a short essay. In terms of what reporters find newsworthy, Cleveland highlights the following seven points: Impact, Prominence, Timeliness, Proximity, Controversy, Uniqueness, and Emotion.

2. Write about your own successes. Blog. Write articles. Submit editorials.

3. If you don't write, find someone who does. Find someone who blogs and get them to profile some of what you're doing in the classroom.

4. Get thyself a Twitter account. Just had a breakthrough? Tweet it. Just had a great lesson? Tweet it. Just had a eureka moment? Tweet it. Twitter is an easy way to promote all the great stuff you're already doing.

5. Put yourself on the school board meeting agenda. Make the board meeting an open microphone night for teacher successes.

6. Adopt a Bulletin Board. Sign up to provide content for your school's hallway bulletin board of some of your students' best work. Let the students design the board. After all, you're busy, and they are willing and far more talented than you might be at decorating a bulletin board. (Sorry, speaking for myself here.)

7. Wear your flair. Doctors and lawyers hang their degrees in a wooden frame. So why can't we advertise our own degrees and professional communities? Are you a fellow of the National Writing Project, an Apple Distinguished Educator, a member of The Teacher Leaders Network, a Teacher of the Year, a NBCT, or do you even have a letter from a student to display that awards you their highest praise -- that of being their favorite teacher? Flaunt your credentials.

8. Teach with your door open. I mean this literally and philosophically. Call administrators in or give them the go-ahead to wander through anytime. Allow visitors to come in, ask questions, and interact. Being transparent with your teaching practice and classroom control is a form of publicity.

Teachers bring students back from the brink of failure every day. Teachers help kids learn how to think, how to share, how to disagree. They teach them the rules of the game. They teach them how to create their own game. They answer questions. They teach students how to question.

So it's up to you to get it out there. It's not just for you, the individual teacher, but also for the good of your staff, and even the profession. Learn to use publicity so it doesn't use us all.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Tween Crayons and Curfews: Tips for Middle School Teachers. In this chapter, titled "Tips Publicizing your Efforts to Get What you Need", I provide advice on how teachers can take control of their own reputation both as an individual and as a profession. The unabridged chapter includes more in-depth information on this topic so that teachers can be more informed on touting their accomplishments to those both inside and outside education. The book will be available on March 1st through the Eye On Education website or March 15 from Amazon.com.