Dear friends (and boys- because I do hope you read these stories when you get older),
I have never been more proud of my profession, my coworkers, my administrators, or my school board. But I am also tired. I am also sad. I am also angry. I am so many emotions I can hardly contain them. Sun up to sun down every day for over a week now. But real life is like that, isn’t it? You hit a brick wall (or maybe just a roadblock, but today feels like a brick wall) and you feel as if you will never get past this moment. I will get past it. I know I will but I’m talking about raw emotion right now. I haven’t written a post since…well, I couldn’t even tell you without looking. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. My life has been turned upside down and I’ve had one singular focus with no extra time for anything else. But I’m bowing out. Just for today. I’m taking a “me day”. I feel guilty. I should be sitting in church right now and Lord knows I need to be there but I just couldn’t. There’s a lot of bitterness and hatred in the world and I’ve felt it was aimed at me (and my friends) this past couple of weeks. I need a break.
This day’s been a long time coming. You see, I am a teacher- a librarian, yes, but surprise- librarians teach, too! I had to get a Masters degree to be a school librarian. I’ve worked in several different schools and have finally found the right school, the right grade levels, and the right community for me. For far too long, professionals in teaching positions all across this nation have been paid far too little for all that they do. We are degreed, certified, professionals. I could make more money at a QT convenience store than I make to help educate your children. How sad is that!
In late February, the teachers of West Virginia had had enough. They weren’t taking it anymore. They walked out. Their strike lasted 8 or 9 days. They got a raised but the funding is questionable. They are committed to striking again if lawmakers can’t do their jobs. Their brave actions set off a chain reaction across the nation amongst teachers who were underpaid, overworked, understaffed, and ill-equipped to do their jobs. My state, Oklahoma, was next in line and Kentucky is right on our heels. Arizona is fast approaching this point as well.
Good Friday, my first day holding a sign. Jay, OK, 2018. I was taking the photo. Left, Matt Nowlin Oklahoma/Arkansas Carpenters/Millwrights Local 216 #UnionStrong. To the right of Matt are my fellow teachers. #StrongerTogether
Oklahoma teachers walked out April 2nd. It is April 8th and we will not be going to school next week unless the legislators do their job and provide funding. We aren’t even asking for all that we should. We are only asking to be funded at the levels we had 10- TEN- years ago. We want textbooks that at least include the Obama presidency. That’s how old our textbooks are- they don’t even include the 8 years of the Obama presidency. There are so few textbooks left that students can’t even take them home to study. Teachers are using textbooks that are falling apart- some duct-taped together so they can be used. Teachers have 200 students and 50 textbooks. Is this what we want for our children?? Our future?? Chairs are broken. Our high school library- my little library- has a collection of books with an average copyright date of 1996. I have books older than me and I’m not talking classics or fairy tales. Actual novels and NONFICTION books older than me! Books that were here when I was in high school here 30 years ago. Books that were here when my children were going to school here in the early 2000’s. Yet teachers go into this environment every day and we still do our jobs the best we can. We still educate and care for the students entrusted to us.
I’m not telling you all this so you pity me. Don’t pity me. What I want is for you to get angry. Get angry that legislators have gotten away with telling you that this is how little your children mean to them! It’s intimidating to call a legislator, much less go visit them. And they are rude- I get that. But sometimes we have to do hard things for the people we love. Teachers have their raises. We could have stayed in school and forgotten about the fact that your kids still need textbooks and chairs and supplies but we didn’t. We care too much for our students. So here we are. We completed Day 5 of the walkout on Friday. Day 6 of the walkout is tomorrow. I’ll be there. Wouldn’t miss it. Will you join me? Yes. Yes. I know. You have jobs. You have lives. You had bad teachers so you’ll never support us. I get it. I do. But this isn’t for “us”. We already have our money (provided they will actually FUND the bill they passed). This is for your children. You have to make your own decisions and care for your own lives. I’ll still be going. Spending my own money on your children (again) and my own time (still) but it would be so much better if you would meet me there. Those legislators need to see YOUR face. They need to see YOUR children that they are shafting. The news is reporting that it’s chaotic and dangerous. That’s a lie. The place is crawling with State Troopers (who were also included in our funding request, I might add). They have been so good at what they do and so good to us. They have said this is one of the most peaceful (and even enjoyable) rallies they’ve ever seen. Teachers are polite, courteous, and pick up after themselves. No big surprise to me. We’ve been cleaning up after ourselves and your children (and legislators) for years.
I’m tired of being called greedy (and much worse). I’m tired of the DHS workers (whom we also included in our request for more funding) saying bad things about us. Saying that we aren’t doing enough when they don’t even show up at a rally designed to get more funding for them too. We didn’t have to include state workers but we did. That’s what teachers do- they care. I’m tired of defending myself, my profession, and my friends. I’m sick at the thought of how little a few of the community members think of us and how vocal they are compared to our supporters. My friends have left Facebook. They can’t take the teacher-bashing any more. They are staying home, trying to rejuvenate going into next week. You can see I’m sitting here (alone) on my couch writing to you because I’m an introvert and writing makes me feel better. I won’t quit though. My students aren’t second class citizens and neither am I. Even with this raise I won’t be earning a lot of money for a degreed, certified professional. I don’t do it for the money though so I’ll take what I can get. It’s been over a decade since teachers got raises. What degreed professional never gets a raise? I could drive 20 minutes further into Arkansas and earn $20,000 more and get a lot more respect but I love my little community. I don’t want to leave. I love our school board and our administrators who have so graciously backed us up and supported us. I will not stop defending them because they did not have to support us like this. I am beginning to wonder whether it’s worth it but I’m going to finish this fight. That way, if my grandsons should ever move to Oklahoma it will be a better place for them to get an education.
I’m not going to edit this post a lot. This is raw. This is how I feel. I’m going to have a good cry then I’m going to pick myself up, go visit my family and then get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow, the Women in Black show up at the capitol building. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. See you in Oklahoma City tomorrow.
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives