By Lillian Hartgrove, State Board of Education Chairman
Special to the UCBJ
Educating and guiding the next generation of students is undoubtedly one of the highest callings. While one can argue the merits of other important careers, the success of these professionals would not happen without the foundational education obtained in K-12.
The education profession is charged with preparing students for all other careers and to that end, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our classroom teachers, the institutions that prepare educators, and all other education professionals across the state.
As a society, we tend to take educators for granted. Too often, their voices are not heard, and their needs and concerns go unaddressed. They also get used as punching bags when someone takes issue with a particular educational situation. Unfortunately, this leaves the entire profession with a black mark. It is unacceptable for those working tirelessly as educators to be vilified by the public for their effort and sacrifice. Tennessee educators deserve high praise for their daily successes in the classroom, particularly in light of the high demands of this profession.
In my time serving on the State Board of Education, I have had the opportunity to visit countless classrooms and marvel at the way teachers establish excitement for learning and achieve incredible student engagement. I have been impressed to hear students clamoring to respond to questions and problems needing to be solved. Seeing teachers engage with students in the classroom has been the highlight of my service with the State Board.
We as Tennesseans, need to reinforce a narrative of appreciation for our educators. We need to stand up for them and show our gratitude for their public service. It is easy to be critical of the profession as a whole based on anecdotal evidence and experiences; it is another matter when you have a more in-depth view and knowledge of what happens in classrooms every day. It is an eye-opening experience to visit classrooms and observe the passion with which our educators inspire our children.
Our current teacher shortage is a multi-faceted issue, but it is exacerbated by the continuous negative comments made regarding the profession. Everyone should consider how to be a part of the solution by encouraging and supporting those professionals who are called to teach. This profession is not for everyone, nor should it be. The notion that anyone can teach is out of touch with reality. Tennesseans are better than this and we need to demonstrate our eagerness to be part of the solution. The future of education in Tennessee depends on it.
Where will our future teachers come from if our society continues to disparage the profession? Who do we want educating our children, the children of Tennessee? Will the best and the brightest be attracted to the profession if we continue in this manner? We need to elevate the profession and give it the utmost level of importance, respect and praise.
Each community, region and state in the nation is indebted to our educators; we owe them our gratitude and respect for their invaluable contributions. A well-educated citizenry is the backbone of our great nation, and our economies flourish because of their great work. We should take every opportunity to thank, encourage, support, respect and appreciate our educators.
They deserve it.