Finally getting around to commenting on something that has been bugging me for several days. The concern was first brought to my attention by a good friend–another teacher. I also heard a few comments from others.
On Tuesday, August 14th, the News Journal–the only newspaper for the largest city in Delaware and circulated state-wide–did a special feature titled Surviving Back to School. It was a handy, useful piece aimed at parents. It outlined ten suggestions for ways families can make the transition from days of summer to school days go more smoothly, with less hassle. With helpful tips from the real experts: students, parents, doctors, a teacher (my friend and colleague, Vicki Seifred), a dietician, and a school nurse.
No problem. I enjoyed the article and thought it covered the waterfront of back-to-school preparations on the home front.
However, the News Journal chose to use what I think is an unfortunate graphic with an otherwise well-written and targeted piece. It was strange: a slightly ghastly hand with pointy nails dragging down a chalkboard, leaving slash marks between the words surviving Back to School, scrawled in chalk, alongside a red apple that has either been thrown at or smashed upon the board. Probably meant to be humorous, and maybe I am overplaying this concern, but,…
The article was aimed at parents. The graphic represented teachers. I mean, what parent stands in front of a chalkboard? I and others saw the clawing hand as that of a teacher, with fingernails scraping down the board, I guess in frustration and dread at the dawn of a new school year. I/we could be wrong.
This is not the message that I or other educators really want communicated, either directly or subliminally, about the start of school. Really. I spend time with a lot of educators–I have seen hundreds of teachers and paras in the past two weeks. In the past week, I have spoken with dozens. What I have heard universally is that summer was fine, but they are ready to get back to school. Not reluctant–ready.
Is this the best that the illustrator and editor for the DelawareHealth section could come up with? (“Now, boys and girls, we never end a sentence with a preposition.”)
The illustration does not match the article, and I think sends a message for which I do not care. Educators are looking for support. We’ll take criticism when it is deserved and delivered in a respectful, productive manner. But not potshots–not snarky, covert stuff.