There are lots of time in education when it almost feels like "us against them." Of course, the "them" varies with the situation. Always remind yourself as an educator that for every one challenge that you face, there are always a dozen silent supporters thankful for what you are doing for them, their children, or the community. Additionally, always try to see their point of view. You see things that they don't every day, but the opposite is true as well.
Unfortunately, social media and the media in general allow for a very vocal and public opposition to schools, policies, or even individual teachers. As a social studies teacher, I don't even see this as any real problem because the freedom of speech is only useful if there is a way for people to hear you. The problem occurs when these vocal critics are ill-informed or misinformed. It is very hard to win back a good reputation for a school or teacher if it has been tarnished, and it doesn't matter if that tarnish is caused by inaccurate information. So, is there a solution to this problem?
The honest answer is "Maybe." While I haven't had much opportunity yet to test this theory, I truly believe that many of these criticisms can be headed off with proper packaging of the school, its programs, and even individual teacher's classes. It is very easy to cut off unwarranted criticism of a school if you simply provide a link to a local news article detailing how the school is already working on that problem. Consistent releases of information about school events, interesting classroom projects, etc. can also provide great packaging for a school that you only see from the inside, while most others only see it from the outside.
Naturally, this means more work for some members of the faculty. With the constant addition of more and more responsibilities, no one wants to volunteer for more burdens. However, if educators aren't their own cheerleaders, who will be? News stories don't happen on their own. Find a couple of teachers willing to learn how to write press releases. Better yet, have some teachers learn how to write press releases and pass that knowledge on to students in a journalism club. Write stories, take pictures, and flood the local papers with them. Put information on the schools website often. Inundate social media with everything that you school is doing and doing well. You don't have to be able to do a backflip to be a cheerleader for teachers.
Criticism is how we learn, and any good teacher or administrator is willing to listen to criticism that will help them grow. However, criticism about things that have already been addressed or that suppose information is factual when it isn't can harm the reputation of everyone involved. Some good packaging for your school and classroom can not only prevent unwarranted difficulties, but create more pride in your school and class as well.
Feature image via highspotinc.com