We have written about depictions of educators in popular culture for nearly 25 years, and there have been enormous changes in the literature since then. During the mid-1990s, many of these publications focused on Hollywood films and explored tropes related to Good Teachers presented as heroes and saviors. While scholarship on these iconic teachers remains a staple in the field, critical approaches have expanded as some of the films produced have become more complex. Also, more and more scholars have begun researching other narrative media depicting educators. This is a positive development because, as we have long argued, popular depictions of teachers and administrators have an effect on how real educators are viewed and valued. This being the case, it is important to broaden our scope to consider various types of meaningful texts.
In this collection of original essays, authors write about literary classics, young adult literature, popular music, television, and—yes—movies. These are all forms that permeate our daily lives and become part of our individual routines. Our contributors write about iconic teachers, unconventional teachers, teachers in revisionist texts, deplorable administrators, and teachers who might more typically be characterized as mentors, coaches, or nontraditional educators. The range of representations considered on these pages is a strength of this volume, and the new ways readers are instructed to think about education in terms of form, function, and cultural context is illuminating.
Popular representations of teachers and teaching are easy to take for granted precisely because they are so accessible and pervasive. Our lives are intertextual in the way lived experiences overlap with the stories of others presented to us through mass media. It is this set of connected narratives that we bring into classrooms and into discussions of educational policy. In this day and time—with public education under siege by forces eager to deprofessionalize teaching and transfer public funds to benefit private enterprises—we ignore the dominant discourse about education and the patterns of representation that typify educator characters at our peril.