Here’s a random observation: 85% of the people in my social circle are in, or retired from, the teaching profession.
And you guys? They are ever so righteously pissed off.
Real talk: I don’t know exactly what their average school year is like but I imagine that if I spent a fraction of one day walking in their shoes, that massive coronary I planned on having in my seventies would hit me swiftly and violently within the first 10 minutes of me standing in a classroom with 30 five-year-olds, and my stressed-out candyass wouldn’t have made it to lunchtime much less 15 years down the road into the future on the same sorry paycheck.
I have so many friends who I love and respect that are marching in Oklahoma City today. I have friends who I love and respect that are teaching in a classroom today. The very fact that any of them had to make a choice as to which place they were most needed speaks volumes about the pitiful state of our public education system in Oklahoma.
None of them draw great joy from protesting at the capitol. None of them want to be there. And here’s another fun fact about a lot of my teaching friends: they most certainly could be in other places besides our Oklahoma classrooms, whether they accept teaching positions out of state, or they search for employment in other professions–but they’re still here doing what they do because it’s never been about the paycheck for them.
Unfortunately, though, so many teachers are, in fact, leaving our schools, that we can’t replace them fast enough. I’m sickened, as a citizen and as a parent. We have done a huge disservice to those that we entrust our little ones to 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 9 months out of the year. (Geez that’s a crap ton of time.) We’ve done a huge disservice to our children. Did we vote for the wrong people? Vote for the wrong bill? Take our teachers for granted and put our schools’ problems on the back burner while we tended to what we thought were more pressing issues? I don’t know where it all went wrong, but the ball was set on fire and dropped into an abyss.
And so, they fight.
While I fully support my friends, I have to acknowledge the growing number of parents who are increasingly frustrated with the whole situation. Just hit up any grocery store at noon on a weekday and you’ll see them–tired, worried expressions, 3 rambunctious children in tow, loading up on juice boxes and peanut butter–and hear them: “My grocery bill is through the roof with these kids home all day. I should be at work right now. I wonder how long this is gonna last.” I can’t pretend like the walk out is only a minor inconvenience for the working class parent.
I’m also paying close attention to which Oklahoma legislators have the patience and wisdom required for continued public servanthood–and which ones most epically do not. It’s honestly shocking to see how disrespectful, dismissive, dishonest, and childish some of these elected officials truly are–and that’s all I’ll say about that. (But maybe let’s not vote straight Republican Party anymore, mkay Oklahoma?)
As far as I can tell, the teachers at the capitol aren’t budging, so unless the legislators there quickly recognize the importance of sustainable funding for public education, there will be some rowdy momma bears camping out in Oklahoma City who will not be protesting as peaceably as the teachers have been.
I do not live in a community full of kids whose parents can afford to feed them three square meals a day, much less take off work for the walk-out; while many area schools are closed indefinitely, our small school is still in session. These teachers are equally as dedicated to our children as the ones marching in front of the capitol building. They receive no recognition or applause, though they deserve it just as much. They are pure class; my family is forever grateful for what they have done and what they continue to do.
When my son was behind in reading, his first grade teacher invited him to take part in an after-school reading program to get extra help until he was back up to speed, at zero cost to us. I was so grateful I could still cry. My daughter has never not wanted to go to school since we moved to this district in 2014. My oldest graduated from an Oklahoma country high school as a valedictorian with crazy high ACT scores, despite all the cuts to education that were made during her years as a student in this state–I’m giving teachers a good chunk of the credit on that one. My children have been well-taught and well taken care of inside those classrooms walls, but it goes so far beyond that.
They are loved and encouraged, strengthened and inspired. As a parent, I cannot put a price tag on that. And I cannot ask for anything more.
So friends, keep fighting the good fight. It’s not over yet but please, please: see this thing through. Don’t back down. Don’t give up. The future of Oklahoma needs it. We need you.