By TEA President Beth Brown
Confucious said, “Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.” So, while I crisscross the state learning as much as I can about the unique challenges faced by TEA members and Tennessee students, I plan to track my travels through this (electronic) letter to you. This e-newsletter is my way of capturing our journey together to the destinations I see ahead in 2020.
At the beginning of every school year, I spend an spend an entire week getting to know my students. I collect all sorts of data—the useful kind—and put it in a color-coded spreadsheet (it’s truly a beautiful thing). I talk with my students about this data and how I intend to use it, and I ask them “How can I teach you if I don’t know you?”
This is the first schoolyear in 17 years that I do not have a new roster of students to get to know. Instead, I have taken the same approach as I have begun my tenure as TEA President. My professional experience is in rural Grundy County. I know the challenges my colleagues and I face in Grundy are not the same challenges faced in the state’s suburban, urban or even other rural districts.
I have been in this new position for almost three months now and the mileage on my car is not the only thing rapidly increasing. My understanding of the challenges—both similar and different—among the locals across our state is increasing. My love for this often grueling, but deeply rewarding, profession and those who choose to walk this road is increasing (You all are seriously an impressive bunch to get to know). My commitment to the cause of ensuring every child has access to a quality public education through the work of a strong, effective association is also increasing.
When I say “association,” I don’t just mean TEA. I have always said TEA is not a building in Nashville. The beauty and strength of TEA is in the sum of its parts – the local associations and members in our schools working with students every day. Our beauty and strength come from members like Ms. Carolyn Murr, an elementary social studies teacher in Union County; Mrs. Laura Cummings, a music teacher in Jefferson County; Ms. Brenda Thompson, an ESP in Dickson County; and from Mr. Michael Franklin, a Spanish teacher in Williamson County. As TEA president, I make it a point to end emails to local presidents with “our state affiliate is only as strong as our local affiliates—and local strength depends upon you!” In the days, weeks, and months ahead, I look forward to meeting many more of you.
The destination ahead seems daunting at times, but I have every confidence in the strength and determination of our members, our local leaders and OUR Tennessee Education Association to fight the good fight for great public schools for all students.
My road trip playlist includes “Getting to Know You,” “On the Road Again” and “Road Trippin’.” These songs will forever remind me of my early weeks as TEA president and the memories made on the road getting to know the lifeblood of this association – members like you!