TV teachers influence perceptions of public education

Mary Dalton

From CBS’s former show “Mike and Molly” to TV Land’s latest “Teachers,” the way educators are portrayed in the media reinforces the idea that teaching is a dead-end job.

Wake Forest communication professor and media expert Mary Dalton says representations of disgruntled, burned out, coarse or childish teachers affect how people view public education. “It’s a dangerous trend,” says Dalton. “We are losing current teachers and good students who might have been interested in the profession are choosing other careers.”

Dalton, who appears in the new documentary, “Teacher of the Year” says “movies and television shows about teachers merge with our own lived experiences with teachers, and, if we are teachers, our experiences as teachers. This is an important concept in understanding how popular culture works, why it is important and how it affects our expectations.”

Teacher of the Year” features social studies teacher Angie Scioli from Leesville Road High School in Raleigh and was created to start conversations about how much is required both professionally and personally from good educators. The film will premiere at Wake Forest University on March 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Benson University Center’s Pugh Auditorium as part of a Teachers, Teaching and Media Conference.

The screening is free and open to the public.

“Teachers in media were once portrayed as ideal hero figures,” says Dalton. “The rise of No Child Left Behind and the adoption of the Common Core curriculum has led to the de-professionalization of teaching and have coincided with the rise of the unprofessional, comic teacher in film and television.”

Read more in her guest column in the Winston-Salem Journal, “Film gives teachers the credit they’re due.”

Dalton is an expert on teachers and TV and was recently quoted in the Washington Post’s “Does television have a teacher problem?” She is the author of “The Hollywood Curriculum: Teachers in the Movies” and co-editor of “Screen Lessons: What We Have Learned from Teachers on Television and in the Movies.”

About the Conference
Wake Forest University is hosting an interdisciplinary Teachers, Teaching, and Media Conference March 2-4. The event is free to Wake Forest faculty, staff and students, and $40 for the general public.

View the schedule and register here.

Categories: Events, Faculty