Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students


There is no adequate substitute for classroom instruction

By TEA President Beth Brown

I gave up long ago believing a book can be properly adapted into a movie. With the exception of The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall, I can’t think of a single book-to-movie adaptation that hasn’t left me disappointed. You simply cannot capture in a two-hour movie the depth of character experienced when reading a book. 

Students, educators and parents are having a similar disappointing experience with the classroom-to-virtual learning adaptation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

There is simply no replacement for in-person instruction from a trained teacher. While educators across Tennessee spent the final quarter of the school year using creative ways to stay connected to students and continue teaching online, we did this because a global pandemic required it, not because distance learning is the most effective way to teach our students. 

It requires skill and expertise to be an effective teacher. It also requires face-to-face instruction with our students. As elected leaders at the local, state and national levels make difficult budget decisions, safely reopening our public schools and getting our students back in the classroom for the 2020-2021 school year must be a top priority. 

The classroom-to-virtual learning adaptation got us through in a pinch, but there is no The Ultimate Gift potential here. Virtual learning is not a sustainable long-term model for providing the quality, well-rounded education our students need and deserve. 

I have spent much of the past two years asking you to fight with me for the funding our schools deserve. While things look very different now and we didn’t get to Rally for Our Schools back in March, the fight is not over. Now more than ever our students and public schools need us to stand together to fight for the funding we need to get our kids safely back in the classroom. 

There are those who want to use this pandemic to erode our strong public schools and promote virtual learning. Tennessee already conducted that experiment with K12, Inc., which proved to be one of the lowest performing schools in the state. Our kids don’t need further experimentation when it comes to their education. We know what works, and that is in-person instruction from a trained educator. 

We have tens of thousands of educators in Tennessee. We are a force to be reckoned with when we stand together to fight for the students and profession we love. 

Our students, families and educators are counting on local, state and federal officials to provide the funding needed to safely reopen public schools. It is up to us to pressure those elected officials to do the right thing and prioritize public education and the one million students Tennessee’s public schools serve.

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