Sometimes it takes me a long time to process. So I sit here tonight looking back over the last four weeks of a walkout and returning to the classroom, again. Reflecting on the transpired events still confounds me at times.
Going back into the classroom conjured a bittersweet mix of emotions. Seeing my students and colleagues back in our building felt like Christmas, the first day of school, and winning the state championship all at once. Knowing long term sustainable change had yet to be enacted caused me to feel anguish over the time we spent at the Capitol.
I have loved getting back into the routine with my students. The first week back we spent a lot of time processing what had occurred. Another adult overheard two kids sitting at table. One leaned over and whispered, “We should walkout!” Little activists in the making. While I am incredibly proud that my students see their voice matters and they can use it to evoke change, I hope and pray that we can figure this out so that the seven and eight year olds sitting in my room do not ever have to walkout to demand their public school is funded.
In Oklahoma, and around the country, a change has started.
As I reflect I, we, must remember the walkout started the change. Our time speaking with senators and representatives, driving back and forth, waiting outside offices and in galleries – that time, that energy is the catalyst for what’s to come.
Since our return from the Capitol, action continues here in Oklahoma. Teachers are taking personal days to continue to show up at the Capitol. Teachers are canvassing neighborhoods to register voters and update voter registration. Teachers are educating themselves to be better informed. Teachers are mobilizing to further engage the community. Teachers are forming committees and groups to disseminate information on candidates. Teachers are partnering with other efforts to evoke change. Teachers are running campaigns and rallies for those they know running. Oh, and teachers are teaching and working three jobs, and grading papers, and conducting running clubs, and coaching soccer and holding robotics club and tutoring children and, well I think you get it.
Teachers have always been a force, but you, (super) majority of legislators, you made us angry. We came to you as your constituents and citizens of our state, and you underestimated us. You think we will forget and roll over because to you it seems we did after two weeks.
But I remember almost every name of every student in my building of over 500 students, almost every year. I am able to recall a decillion things many could not even begin to recall as I educate an overcrowded classroom every day. Teachers hold and juggle more in their mind than many can handle.
We did not and we will not forget.
We can remember that Susie needs her work printed on yellow paper because of a visual discrimination issue. We know Fred has a hard time on Wednesday because that is when he switches from one parent to another. We know Juan needs to stand after recess because he is squirmy. We know Dacia and Deidra are best friends but also “frenimies” who need extra support with conflict resolution. We know that Eric’s IEP says he gets extra time to do his work while Adrianna’s says she gets her work cut in half. We know that at 8:34 AM every day Jordan will go to the bathroom. We know that Jesse needs an activity to help him build his fine motor skills because his pencil grip is weak, though improving. We know, recall and and act on all of this and a million other things before 7:25 each morning.
So trust me, we did not forget about you up there at the Capitol. We did not go away. We did not surrender. We are strategizing. We are planning. We are regrouping. We will be back, in force. We will not be deterred. We will vote and we will bring others to vote with us. Oh, and we will not end our school year early as y’all have proposed doing with your legislative session. We will continue to go above and beyond for our students because we believe in them and we value them. And unlike some professions, we match our actions with our words.
So, feel free to rest easy. But know, summer is coming. And though many of you think we will simply be basking in the bliss of a “paid vacation”, mark my words. We will be working to ensure that long term sustainable change in our state becomes a reality for our students and their future.
Oklahoma, mark your calendars for:
- June 26, 2018 for primaries
- August 28, 2018 for primary runoffs, if needed
- November 6, 2018 for the general election