A year ago, I was just beginning my extended school year as the result of a six-day teacher walkout in Arizona.
Those days (the walkout; not so much the make-up days) were overflowing with so much emotion. Anger. Sadness. Worry. Emotions I can’t name. For example, being one of tens of thousands of people marching through Phoenix, nearly all in red T-shirts, in plenty hot weather. (Last May was not as kind as this May was.) I can’t name that emotion, but it was powerful.
I want to share with you two pieces I wrote during the walkout.
Of course, I am a teacher, so I have that angle.
I’m also a mom, and I want The Kid to have good public schools to attend.
I also live in a society where it benefits the majority of us for the majority of us to be educated. Not all college-educated, but all with basic reading, math, and critical thinking skills.
It’s easier for people in power to control an uneducated populace.
On a more local level, we want businesses to make their homes here, because it benefits us economically. But they’re not going to do that if we can’t provide a good work force…
So. Support your local public schools. Not happy with how they’re being run? Go to board meetings. Find out where you can get information. Read. Talk. Learn. Speak up. Vote.
Throwing money blindly at a problem doesn’t solve it, but neither does taking money away.
With that, here were my thoughts prior to leaving the house on the first and fourth days of the walkout. The first day included a march. (From Chase Field to the Capitol, if you’re familiar with Phoenix.) I have not edited them.
But I did make note in the second one about the band. We got the instrumentalists together. We got music to play—either music in the public domain or music that had the copyright donated—and we played and played and played. We contributed to the atmosphere. Helped keep energy up. Were wildly popular.
It’s not often that the band kids are the popular kids.
I’ve read some beautiful narrations about all that’s going down today, many of them by people who don’t share much of their interior life on Facebook.
On the other hand, I, who am usually overflowing with narrations, don’t have any coherent paragraphs about all this.
I have stood in a pack of tens of thousands of people, full of nervous energy.
But today, we are not running a 10k.
Today, we are finding the energy, after a 10-year marathon, to stand up and say ENOUGH.
You can call us names. You can make up your own truths. You can pretend that public education doesn’t matter. We are not delicate flowers who wilt under nastiness.
People, we teach junior high.
I will never understand how people demonize teachers, and then send their kids to be in our care all day every day.
How people complain about having their kids home over breaks but have no empathy for those of us who have dozens of them at once.
Today, together with tens of thousands of my colleagues, in Phoenix spring weather (read: 100 degrees), I will walk. I will chant. I will sing. I will play. I will talk. I will stand as tall as my little body stands.
There is a small handful of things that I have this conviction about. Creating and maintaining a flourishing public school system is one of them.
See you in Phoenix.
(And it turns out, I did have a few words.)
I have so many thoughts. They don’t all flow. Hang on for the ride…
I’m getting ready for my 4th day at the Arizona Capitol, protesting that our government isn’t properly funding education.
We’ve been writing, calling, voting (though not enough of us…) for a decade. There have been lawsuits that the government LOST and still, here we are.
And still here we are, demonized by so many for being selfish and greedy. People whose opinions we have to just let roll, because they don’t understand us at all, and they don’t want to.
People who don’t understand and will have a conversation? Will ask questions and listen to answers? THOSE are the people we need to talk to. Not the people who already agree. Not the people for whom we have never done any right. The people who are trying to learn. We are teachers.
In the classroom, we’re responsible for everyone’s learning. Right now, we’re not. Teach the teachable. Let the others go.
Years ago (2008? 2009?), I sat in a faculty meeting where my colleagues and I were asked to vote on whether everyone should take a 3% pay cut, or if instead they should cut band, art, and library. Not only were they asking about whether I and my fellow special area teachers should be employed, but they were asking if these subjects were more valuable to students than our salaries.
We (collectively) voted to take a pay cut. Greedy, selfish teachers.
The whole situation is surreal. Why is education political? How is it that we’re so divided on creating an educated population? (I know a lot of the why behind that. It’s just so … crazy that we’ve gotten to this point. That money and greed—real greed, not “greedy teacher” greed—has brought us here.)
And then…AND THEN… to say that the only way we can fund education is to cut funding to other programs … to pit the “have less”es against each other. As if there’s NO POSSIBLE OTHER WAY. (And we’re not the have-nots, because ultimately, this all still falls under “first world problems” … but if we let it continue unchecked, that’s not going to stay the case…)
I walk around at the Capitol. I talk to people. I play with the band. And I think … I’m supposed to be teaching right now. Yet here I am, because the people in charge of taking care of us are not doing their job. They’re actively hurting us.
Playing with the band …
There are a lot of posts going around by non-music people about how amazing the band is, how much energy we bring to the event and to the people in it.
This is (part of) why we have music education. Not because music makes you smarter. Not to raise test scores. Not as a feather in one’s cap for college applications.
Music for music’s sake.
With that, the Camelbak is full, snacks are packed, the red shirt is on, and I’m headed back to Phoenix. Hope to see you there.