Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students


Policymakers can ease educators’ tremendous burden

By TEA President Beth Brown — We have all heard the expression “There’s no tired like end-of-the-year teacher tired.” I think it is safe to say that has been proven categorically untrue by our experiences this year. There is no tired like “trying to survive a pandemic while balancing a significantly increased workload and caring for one’s own family” tired. 

Yes, educators are tired. But we’re doing our jobs, just as we have since before the onset of the pandemic and just as we will continue to do after the pandemic passes. There are steps to be taken that would make our jobs easier, though. 

Our jobs would be easier if standardized testing were suspended this year. The weeks traditionally consumed with administering standardized tests would be better spent offering instruction to help mitigate the disruption to students’ learning experienced this year. Moreover, standardized testing conducted this year will yield exceptionally flawed data that is of no practical use. 

Our jobs would be easier if evaluations were suspended this year. There is no state-approved evaluation model that can fairly and accurately measure educators’ performance during a pandemic. Instead of conducting unreasonable observations, administrators could better use their time identifying and securing the resources required to meet students’ increased needs. 

Our jobs would be easier if everyone recognized that pandemic teaching and learning is not the same as typical teaching and learning. As we continue to experience disruption to learning, it is imperative that educators address students’ mental and emotional health needs as we prioritize the skills students need before moving on to the next grade. It is unrealistic to expect students and educators to cover all customary content while surviving these extraordinary times. 

Our jobs would be easier if educators did not have to worry about the negative financial impact on our households caused by exhausting our sick leave due to COVID exposure and/or infection quarantine. 

Our jobs would be easier if school districts had increased funding for nurses, counselors, and other educators to help meet the increased physical, emotional, and academic needs of our students. 

Our jobs would be easier if educators were recognized as the professionals that we are. No one knows better than we do how our students are faring and what their needs are. Educators have the training, skill, and passion to overcome the disruption to students’ learning, but we must first survive the pandemic. 

For anyone who has not yet seen this message circulating social media, please remember that “2020 teaching is not forever teaching. We will hug our students again. We will turn the pages of an amazing book together. We will see each other’s smiles.” 

And you know what else we will do again? We will help our students catch up on their unfinished learning because we are professionals, and we do our jobs. 

It is time that the policymakers in Nashville do theirs: suspend standardized testing and evaluations, increase funding and resources for our public schools, and respect educators’ professionalism. 

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