As a public school educator, I have certainly shared and commented on many education-related topics on Facebook and Twitter because being an educator is far more than a job--it’s a passion that wakes me up in the morning and gets me energized for the day. Social media is a good venue for educators to express their voices. Take Tennessee's voucher bill, for example. Teachers in this state were strongly against it, and social media played a role in keeping vouchers from becoming a reality. The defeat of vouchers was a rare win for Tennessee’s educators--most of whom, like myself, are active on social media platforms. We comment and share and voice each other's opinions in a seemingly strong cacophony of teacher voice; yet, educators often feel left out of the decision-making process of their own profession. I, too, sometimes feel like a powerless pawn in a game of chess in which I don’t have control over the movement of any of the pieces. What’s worse is that there are organizations from within Tennessee and from around the country who are determined to privatize education, and they do a great job of miseducating and misleading the general public about their own public schools by focusing on the negative and by publishing false information. This hurts educator morale, and, as a result, we are not expressing our collective voice at the same decibel level as before.
When the opportunity came knocking for me to join Hope Street Group, I eagerly applied. Hope Street Group, in its first year in Tennessee, is a non-partisan, non-profit organization whose mission is to improve public education through elevating and broadcasting educator voice. After all, educators know best what’s working and what’s not working in their classrooms and with their students. Including myself, there are currently 29 Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellows across the state, and last semester we conducted an online survey and in-person focus group meetings on the topics of educator leadership and professional development. This information was compiled into a report by a third party and was delivered to those who make decisions on educators’ behalf--including the Tennessee Dept. of Education, lawmakers, and school boards.
I was fortunate enough to go with a small group of Teacher Fellows to Nashville and present the report to Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education, Dr. Candice McQueen. Below is a picture from Hope Street Group’s meeting. I’m standing immediately to the left of Dr. McQueen.
The short meeting went way beyond its scheduled time slot because she was interested in what educators had to say. Dr. McQueen asked many specific questions about the information contained in the report, and the Tennessee Department of Education is working on implementing some of the recommendations. It goes to show that, when allowed the opportunity, educator voice does make a difference. That fateful night in December was the first of many giant steps in the direction of elevating educator voice in Coffee County and throughout the state.
Another step in that same direction is this new “Tennessee Teacher Voice” blog. My vision for this blog is twofold. I intend to elevate educators' voices from my own county and from across the state by making the public aware of our solutions-oriented views on educational issues. I also want to highlight many of the positive activities occurring in educators' classrooms and schools of which the general public may be unaware. A quality education is the foundation of a thriving society. It impacts all of us!