I sit here and type this exhausted. No other word explains how I feel. There’s apparently teacher tired which generally appears around August, parent teacher conferences, December, and May. But “Teacher Advocate in a Walkout Tired” is a new level for me personally.
Since April 2nd I and educators all across our state have shown up at the State Capitol, met with legislators, held signs at street corners all over our state, helped pass out meals to ensure children are fed, helped organize and run day camps, organized buses back and forth, and some even walked 108 miles from Tulsa to the Capitol in Oklahoma City. Y’all, they walked.
Why? Well, we love our students and we know without a doubt the drastic cuts to education funding in our state reached a dire low. So as a collective, we shutdown our schools. Let it be known, I and every single teacher I have interacted with wants to be in the classroom. We miss our students. We miss their smiles, their stories, their hugs, their little (and big) personalities. I don’t teach to advocate at the Capitol. I teach to inspire children. I teach because children inspire me.
While last week was invigorating, about Friday I hit a wall. A stalemate of sorts began to grow amongst legislators and educators. This is a very frustrating process.
Creating a state budget is an enormous undertaking and I do not envy our legislators at all. The majority of our legislators are tirelessly working to ensure our core state services are fully funded. But a few fringe seem to impeding the process.
In the midst of the frustration and angst of missing my class, I was growing weary. Consumed with the what if’s of making up days, the what if’s if students I know who are not in school and the unknowns that lie ahead yesterday I started to lose hope of any sort of resolution.
And I kid you not, in that moment a former parent sent me a message to keep fighting. An hour later, I saw a former student and her mom at the Capitol. Her smile and huge hug as she talked ninety miles an hour about her new school and how cool it was teachers were standing up filled me with joy. Then yesterday afternoon a group of teachers who walked, walked from Tulsa, Oklahoma to the State Capitol arrived on the steps of our house.
Teachers lined the sidewalks and a local high school band led them in. Something in me broke. Under my sunglasses I began to ugly cry. Not because of the teachers who undoubtedly accomplished an impressive feat, but because of why I know they chose to walk 108 miles. The did this for the children who fill their classrooms. They did this for those children as their future.
Even though I’m tired and frustrated this entire process has evoked such solidarity. As teachers we often feel so alone, but the last eight days I’m reminded we are not. Rural, suburban, urban we are all up here together. Together we advocate for all of our students, for all of our state. And that is the reminder I need as I am about to step into the Capitol for the next round of conversations and discussions today.
Here’s to together making a positive change for our state.
*posting this from my phone so please give me grace with any typos!