Why I Won’t Strike: A Perspective

One summer in Venice Beach I met a Chihuahua-Greyhound mix named Igor. His eye-contact was both suspicious and inviting. Its puffy body, taut tendons, and long, curved toenails made him somehow look like a tiny hot air balloon. His owner said he was never a dog person until he met Igor: he was captivated by the way the animal personified two extremes: the greyhound’s tranquil desire to run, and the Chihuahua’s quirky tendency to observe and fight.

Friends, I’m feeling Igor-esque about the strike. I’ve supported the peaceful walk-ins. I red-shirted Wednesdays with first-week-freshman enthusiasm. I painted my car with hashtags. I protested in front of City Hall. As the movement grew, I felt increasingly inspired and supported: I thought, “wow: we might actually get the governor’s attention.”

And then we did: he responded with a proposal for a twenty-percent raise. Twenty percent as in the big, impossible number.  My husband, who was out-of-town, jokingly texted me, “So what are you going to do now that you’re rich?” and that’s when my “oh wow” became “oh no”. Only then did it occur to me that the public might see our motives as selfish. So I did the Twitter thing and was surprised to see that it was the teachers who were angry.

Here’s the most important sentence in this blog: teachers are justifiably upset that the proposal doesn’t give students what they deserve. Here’s the second most important sentence in this blog: the walk out will cause school closures.

Jess Ledbetter, in her recent post “A Call for Unity” brilliantly outlines why Governor Ducey’s proposal is not sufficient. Her tone, ever didactic, outlines why educators shouldn’t settle; essentially, she emphasizes why giving in now would undermine students, not the movement.

But I just can’t do it. I will walk-in. I won’t walk out. But I won’t give up.

Hello Igor.

Let me illustrate another tiny, ironic balloon. The strikes are interrupting my students’ preparation for Law Day—a mock trial where they’ll get to present cases for and against the second amendment to a judge. They’d also be planning for our Mural Project—an end-of-the-year assignment that enables students to manifest their leaning by turning a school hallway into an illustrative tour of our last book.

The only place I want to be on Thursday is in my classroom with kids. On Friday, I also want to be in my classroom with kids. And also on the following Monday. Repeat and ditto until June 1st. After June 1st, I want to spend several days in a hammock in the woods recharging before I start prepping for next year’s students.

So on Thursday, I’ll be doing a “teach-in”. I’ll host a study session for students who want to research and create. I’ll be grateful for the teachers who will be professionally ensuring a quality educational future, but I’ll be the teacher who is there for that day. And the next day, and the next. We each have our role and I think I’m okay with being the weird little dog that’s a constant companion even if it has a strange, little bark.

I believe in the magic of a single day of school. I also believe in the power of perspective pieces. I highly recommend each of the following blogs, which humanize the many views of this movement and how it impacts education:

RedforEd: United We Stand, Divided We Fall, by Treva Jenkins

Families: A Call for Unity with #REDforED, by Jess Ledbetter

Stop Playing Chess Without A Queen, by Mike Vargas

 

Angela Buzan

Angela Buzan is a full time English teacher in the Flagstaff Unified School District. She has thirteen years’ teaching experience and has taught all grades seven through twelve. In 2010, she received a Fulbright Teacher Exchange fellowship to Kolkata, India; in 2012 she achieved National Board Certification; in 2014 she earned a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Design and Instruction. Her current challenge is to out-read Gavin, in third period, who typically polishes off three novels a week.

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