So She’s Not Fat or Old, But…

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Tennessee’s new Commissioner of Education, Candice McQueen, speaking at the Partners in Education conference in Nashville.

In my post, “It’s Time for the Reign of the Fat Old Ladies”, I expressed my concerns about the upcoming appointment of a new education commissioner for Tennessee. I really wanted a commissioner who represents the hard working teachers who have always been the unrecognized leaders our education movement. Yesterday, I had a chance to listen to our new commissioner, Candice McQueen, and though she hasn’t had enough time to prove herself, I’m feeling optimistic. No, she’s not nearly fat and old enough to convince me she that knows the plight of today’s teacher, but at least she’s a woman, has classroom experience, and seems to have respect for the teaching profession.

From the first few seconds of listening to her predecessor, Kevin Huffman, I knew that my future as a teacher was in terrible peril. And from the first few seconds of listening to Candice McQueen, I could tell that the administration has learned from its mistake and has either chosen a much more teacher-friendly direction or has learned to pander to teachers pretty convincingly.

McQueen called eduction a “high calling” and asserted that she would listen more than talk in the early stages, to hear the concerns of all stakeholders – a far cry from the the condescension and blame heaped on teachers by her predecessor. She spoke of her brother with a disability, and the respect she had for his teachers along the way. She spoke of her own mother’s lifelong dedication to teaching.

I was a little less convinced by her classroom experience. While she had a few years of regular classroom teaching, most of her experience was part of grant-funded classrooms embedded in public schools for the purposes of teacher training and research. This means that while she may know something about the students and settings we teach in, she has not experienced the levels of disrespect, voicelessness, lack of resources, or limited access to information that most teachers struggle with on a daily basis.

I can only hope that she will follow through with her promise to listen, and that her actions will be as respectful to teachers and students as her words were yesterday.

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