Tenn. Education Commissioner pep-talks teachers at their in-service

Friday, August 7, 2009

Marshall County teachers received some friendly and folksy advice from Tennessee's education commissioner on Tuesday during their in-service training as classes began again for the fall semester.

"Annual Yearly Progress and other numbers are important" when measuring academic achievement, Dr. Tim Webb reported Wednesday about his discussion in Lewisburg. "But there are things you can't measure, like how many hugs you got and how many dreams you protected."

Speaking here with the state education commissioner was Professor Aubrey Flagg of Columbia State Community College who was Webb's geography professor when Webb attended Columbia State in Maury County.

There's a closer relationship than teacher-student between Webb and Stan Curtis, schools director for Marshall County.

"His uncle is married to my first cousin, but I got to know him years ago when we were kids," Webb said, speaking of his childhood and family in Hohenwald where the small town atmosphere brings friends and family together.

Curtis said Webb told Marshall County teachers about "values and what you learn as a kid. He used his parents' life-long lessons as the basis of his discussion."

Amanda Anderson, deputy director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Education, said Webb was here "for in-service days with teachers" and to speak "about the upcoming school year."

Curtis said, "building relationships and how to treat people equally" was one of the lessons that Webb delivered.

Ten or 11 of those lessons, Webb said, "can be applied to education," largely because "They are good common sense."

An example is "about success being measured by leaving things better than how you found them," Webb said.

Application of family values also means "treating every child like they are yours and their families as if they were in yours," he said.

"The teachers next to you are in your extended family," Webb said Wednesday, reflecting on his discussion here the day before.

He visited a number of school systems in South Central Tennessee.

The commissioner's points were "not earth shattering or ground breaking," Webb said, although they did divert from the exceptional emphasis that's been placed on standardized tests in recent years.

He said he wanted the message for teachers to be one of "inspiration and about not losing focus on the things that matter just because of numbers. We will never achieve those numbers unless we take care of the fundamentals."

That includes the basic work of teaching children.

"If we don't take care of those things we'll never get to the other side," Webb said.

Curtis recalls that the commissioner advised teachers that they can still love what they do even after teaching for decades.