The Wrong Perception: What can the Teaching Profession learn from United Airlines and Pepsi?

The Wrong Perception: What can the Teaching Profession learn from United Airlines and Pepsi?

It’s been a while since I started ‘The Wrong Journey’ and a long time since my last post. I’ve enjoyed lots of staffroom discussions on the latest ‘wrongs and rights’ of education. The list is increasingly growing and more theories appear to be ‘debunked’. It’s becoming harder for the teaching profession, in my opinion, to make decisions based on evidence and facts when there are so many options to consider.

Which direction?

Perhaps this has been an issue in education, or UK education, for many years. This year I reach the ten-year mark as an educator, a ‘milestone’ perhaps to really reflect on my practice and where I want to go next. However, I’m concerned that there is no guiding light or group in education that offers reassurances on the rights or wrongs of solid, quality education and best practice.

A PR problem?

I see colleagues and peers, online and offline, being led by educational consultants and Twitter ‘Edu-celebs’ on best practice. This worries me. The message of what is right and wrong in education today is becoming harder for the ‘average’ teacher to ascertain, decipher and put to good use. Lines are blurred, as are personal agendas. Can things be so black and white, right and wrong? This is not to say that these voices shouldn’t be valued but they are very loud. With a perceived lack of clarity and confidence from within the profession, how can non-educators have trust and faith in what we do or say? Does the teaching profession have a PR problem?

The wrong perception

United Airlines and Pepsi have recently shown us how powerful public perception, and media, has on the success of a brand. The awful treatment of the passenger on United Flight 3411, and the subsequent follow-up from the CEO resonated with a lot of people. Although this is an extreme and unusual case, it ultimately changed the face of the company. People were outraged, not just by the incident, but by the way it was handled by United’s leader.

Pepsi had their own issues too when Kendall Jenner, famous for being famous, showed the world that everything can be fixed with a can of soda. This perhaps didn’t spark the same outrage as United but the company and its image was mocked as a result.

Heineken, however, shows them how it’s done with the excellent ‘World’s Apart’ advert.

So where does the teaching profession come in?

Some (more) questions:

What if we considered the teaching profession as a brand? (*ducks for cover*)

What if we started to re-consider what the profession means to us as peers and colleagues?

What if we re-evaluated and re-considered how the public perceives the profession?

Teacher recruitment, retention and workload have made headlines in the UK over the past few months. As a result, a stream of stock images have populated many news articles, presenting a very specific image of our profession.

The issue of workload and mental health of educators is real and not to be undermined. The challenges, details, concerns, solutions etc. are so much broader and more complex than I can articulate in this short blog post but it is doesn’t paint the full picture of the profession.

Redefining the profession

There are success stories and achievements to be shared. There are educators standing up to the tired stereotype of the 9-3:30 teacher with 14-weeks of holiday. Where are the news articles and stock images representing them? Are we always the victim? How do we change our ‘brand’ or our image as professionals so that our naysayer’s trust and believe in what we do, ensuring some support when times get tough?

It’s here that we come full circle. How can we define and promote our ‘brand’, our profession, until we truly know what it’s supposed to look like – what we really want it to look like. We can’t (re)define our profession until we are confident in understanding what’s wrong or right, what our purpose is, or more importantly, being able to successfully identify this ourselves.

Education communities

I recently joined the Chartered Colleague of Teaching to help me make sense of some of these questions and thoughts. I’m fortunate enough to hear Dame Alison Peacock’s keynote speech at my school’s conference on 1st May (more via #BSNConf17, @BSNLearn and @BSNIntLA). I’m sure I’ll reflect more on this later.

Without sounding like an advert, which this post is not, the option to join a group willing to address similar questions is very empowering. For me, as an ‘ordinary’ educator, it’s important to also have access to up-to-date research. I want to make up my own inferences and decisions in building this image – rather than being told.

While image and brand is important – so is depth. Above all, our profession should be one that is credible and inspiring.

Something that United Airlines and Pepsi could learn from too.

The joy of this blog is that I get to ask these questions. I may not necessary have the answers to them (yet anyway)! It’s a great get-out clause! There may be a slight scent of idealism in my posts but I hope I get to engage with others. 

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