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Teachers need a PR tutorial

The lesson the Scranton Federation of Teachers is giving this Saturday is clear: Throw a tantrum if you don’t get your way.
Sinking their teeth into the taut skin of the city’s taxpayers, the members of the Scranton Federation of Teachers 1147 have decided to bite the hand that handsomely feeds them by picketing the opening of a new elementary school in the city. An Open House has been planned for the Isaac Tripp Elementary School by the PTA and administration. It was supposed to be a chance for apprehensive students to have their fears calmed and their presence welcomed in a new place where everybody’s starting from square one. It was intended to give the youngsters a chance to be welcomed by the Tripp faculty with open arms. Instead, teachers have decided it’s better to slap families in the face with an “informational” picket on the grounds of the school. To make matters worse, they spelled “contract” wrong on their website when making the announcement. That should drop their credibility by half a letter grade from the jump.
If you perceive this as “teacher bashing,” you get an “A.”  However, it’s not without some thought of what the profession has meant to my family and me.
I admire and think often of the teachers in my own life. They gave me some of the tools I use every day in the course of my career. They taught me to ask questions and expand my horizons. They made me understand the world in context. Some patiently taught me the craft of journalism.
My own father was a teacher until he left for private industry. My uncle was a teacher. My cousin is a teacher. I am a part-time college instructor. I know there’s much more to this career than meets the eye.
That’s why these learned scholars, some of them with multiple initials after their names from their higher education, should learn a little bit about PR 101. During this course, teachers could be introduced to common sense practices that would help them play well with others and gain sympathy with effective messaging.
Lesson One:  There’s a time and place for making your point. Just like those who speak out of turn and snap their gum in class, some behavior is just not appropriate in certain venues. As someone who has worked without a contract for long periods of time, I know it’s frustrating. However, certain actions make matters worse. If these educators think they’ll be met with sympathy, they should grab a newspaper and read about the challenges faced by those who work in other industries. It’s not pretty out there.
Lesson Two: Gratitude is the attitude. When a school board that represents taxpayers takes the bold move of building a new school, don’t act like they’ve just handed you a cow pie. Even if you have some issues involving your perceived treatment, check them at the door. You’ll be glad you did, and some people may decide you are worth your weight in gold because you cared about their kids.
Lesson Three: Don’t spoil the party. Like the proverbial fly in the punch bowl, don’t ruin things for everyone else who’s there to have a good time. The president of the PTA told us the other day she and others volunteered their time to make the event possible. The PTA bridges the gap between parents and teachers at no cost to anyone. It’s a thankless task, but they do it because they want to help. That’s what we call positive role modeling.
The head of the PTA also asked the teachers to attend the Open House because it means a lot to the students. If teachers really are “for the kids,” it would behoove them to put down their signs and pick up the spirits of their young pupils. Class dismissed.


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