“Well, I’m a teacher . . . so.”

“Well, I’m a teacher . . . so.”

by | Sep 19, 2022 | Public Education

I get that response a lot (usually accompanied by an apologetic shrug) when I’m knocking doors in District 26 and ask people if there’s anything that concerns them about state government here in Tennessee. 

To be fair, many people are concerned about quite a few things happening in Nashville, not the least of which is the loss of reproductive rights. But when I happen to knock on a teacher’s door, their list of concerns about public education alone tend to be so long that they have a hard time encapsulating them. So I get that response—and a shrug—instead.

It must feel dystopian to be a public-school teacher in Tennessee. You went to college (and often graduate school) knowing full well you’d be underpaid, work lots of off-the-clock hours, and dip into your own pocket to buy classroom materials. You knew you’d be micromanaged by administrators and yelled at by parents. You did it anyway, because you love kids and want to make a difference in their world.

And now your own state government is actively dismantling the public education system—harvesting it for parts, in a sense—to build a new system of publicly funded, privately run charter schools.

You’re left to deal with the chaotic results: not enough classroom teachers; not enough resources; new unfunded state mandates (in other words, more hoops for you to jump through with time and resources you don’t have); and students who, after two pandemic school years, need more from you than ever.

Not everybody gives me the shrug.

Last week, in the same neighborhood, I had a longtime teacher’s assistant tell me she’d finally had enough and was leaving in two weeks, and a first-grade teacher dissolve in tears before she could speak. The week before, another teacher (whose wife was also a teacher) told me, “Our governor is waging a war on public education in Tennessee.”

Over the last four years, Gov. Bill Lee and our extremist state legislature have caused damage that might take a decade to undo. But we owe it to our children, and to our hardworking educators, to start fixing the damage now.