Showing posts with label Teacher Raises. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teacher Raises. Show all posts

Saturday, April 7, 2018

An open letter of resignation from an Oklahoma teacher

It's a confusing April morning in Oklahoma.

I have a cup of coffee and I'm looking outside my front window at my azaleas...which are covered in snow. Earlier this morning we had an earthquake. My wife is helping my son with his homework, even though he hasn't been in school all week, and he won't be there Monday either.

April, blooming flowers, snow, my son actually doing homework, earthquakes...and those aren't the weirdest thing to happen this past week.

This week I watched through various social media platforms and news outlets as my fellow educators, students, apologists, sympathizers, and according to Mary Fallin, ANTIFA, stormed Oklahoma City and the Capitol to rally for education funding. Awestruck, I saw them fill the Capitol building every day, I saw them spell out messages with their bodies for aerial photographs, and I saw some of the funniest and most grammatically-correct protest signs I've ever had the privilege of looking at.

 I wasn't there.

On Monday, I watched our children as my wife joined with her school on the Capitol lawn. On Tuesday, one of our kids had an appointment that my wife and I had to be present for. My school decided at zero hour to not participate in the full-fledged walk out, so for the rest of the week I had to be in class. I wasn't happy about it.

That said, I'm not unhappy about it anymore. I decided instead to take action. I've resigned.

I've resigned myself to the thought that most of the people in this state (most of the media included) think that this entire thing is about a pay raise. I've spent the whole week telling people I want my raise to go to my classroom, to no avail. In an effort to combat this, I looked at my wife and said, "I'm going to spend all of my raise after taxes on stuff for my room, just to prove a point." I felt noble. I was proud, standing before my wife having made what I considered to be an incredibly magnanimous gesture. But alas, my beautiful, lovely, and always taciturn wife brought me back down to earth: "Travis, no one cares about you."

I'm still seeing news stories and Facebook posts about how greedy teachers are. Our own governor thinks we all just want new cars. We can't win. We're either greedy, or we stop the fight now and we never cared about the student funding, so we're selfish. As Bobby Hill says:

I've resigned myself to the knowledge that even with this "generous raise," Oklahoma will still be near the bottom of the barrel in teacher pay, and because the money from the bills in question is going to general funds, in a couple of years the legislature can appropriate the revenue to whatever they want, leaving already crumbling districts to figure out how to pay for those raises.

I've resigned myself to the realization that the leaders of this great state don't care at all about public education, and their end goal is clearly consolidation at best, and vouchers at worst. This means my tiny school district in Okay, Oklahoma - the school I graduated from and now teach at - might not be long for this world unless something changes.

So I've resigned. What else could I do?

One of the biggest battles as a teacher in my district is convincing my students they're capable of being heard. A more perfect example could not have been constructed than in a conversation that took place in my classroom this past week.

Student: "Why aren't we participating in the teacher walk out?"
Me: "Well..."
Another Student: "We're just Okay. We're too small. We can't make a difference."
Me: *rage intensifies*

I think that may have been what broke me, and so I just went ahead and resigned again.

I've resigned myself to educating not just my students, but those of you who think teachers aren't fighting for your students. To educating those of you who think teachers just want a raise. To educating those of you who feel like just because your taxes went up, that gives you a right to blame my fellow educators and I, instead of the state government you keep voting into office just because you're pro-life and those stinkin' Democrats kill babies. You can be a Christian Democrat you narrow-minded Pharisee simpleton.

I've resigned myself to being nicer to those who don't share my views. And yes, that means starting right now, after the Pharisee simpleton line. Every journey has a beginning, and mine might as well be the space between these two paragraphs. I love you, even if you're an idiot (okay, now). There are ways to have reasonable discourse on volatile issues, and I have to take responsibility for my part in that. Part of the problem is social media - every issue is polarizing, and if you don't take a clear stance on an issue, you're often overlooked. Being overlooked is the worst thing that can happen on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other digital outlet. Fear of being overlooked can cause people to say emphatic things, even if they don't entirely believe them.

I'm resigned to investing in G, in H, in H. In L, J, B, D, J, C, A, A, A, E, T, and M. In R, J, T, L, L, J, R, T, T, T, A, N, A, B, and S. Investing in H, S, C, T, T, C, S, R, and R. In A and Z. In K, K, B, K, K, S, C, S, and S. In S, J, B, D, K, K, A, T, K, C, and S. Investing in M, K, N, K, M, K, S, A, E, S, C, L, R, and B. All of these young people depend on me to teach them about English, sure, but more importantly, they depend on me to help them become the kind of people this state can be proud of. They depend on me to protect them. I am their tutelary.

I won't be at the Capitol next week. I'll be in my classroom, helping administer state tests and trying to convince young men and women that yes, they absolutely can make a difference, and yes, their voices can be heard. I'll be showing them pictures of your signs and videos of your congregations. You can have the stage, and I'll take my broken classroom podium. Together we'll scream the same message. "You are powerful. You are capable. You are cared about."

To the Oklahoma Legislators who are currently supporting us, thank you. We are in your debt, and I personally would love for you to visit my classroom when it's over. It's an open invitation. Come and let my students and I thank you personally.

To the ones telling educators to get back in our classrooms and teach: There's a point in every dystopian novel where the hero(ine) meets those in power. If you could read anything other than bills penned in oil instead of ink, you'd know how they end.

Okay, okay, starting now. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My response to your vote on Oklahoma State Question 779

That's the tweet that finally sparked this, just to let everyone know. I've been meaning to post this since November 10, but I've just never gotten around to it, and hearing those words come out of my wife's mouth this evening, it finally consumed me.

Earlier this year, in October, I was asked to guest blog on a site called Blue Cereal Education, an education blog based here in Oklahoma. I wrote this post. In it, I told everyone that no matter what Oklahomans voted on State Question 779, I'd be fine, and I'd show up the next day at work with a smile on my face.

I lied.

As I stayed up later and later on November 8, it became very clear that Oklahomans had made their voices very clear on a tax matter how good of a cause it was for. I fumed, and then I fumed more, and finally I went to bed entirely too late, incensed at you people for checking no instead of yes.

I googled the rate of pay for teachers in Arkansas, then Florida, and Kansas before finally my own words drifted through my head.

"I'll die here or retire here." 

So much for that, right?

So on that Thursday, November 10, we had a blood drive at my school. As a teacher, I find it crucial to take time out of my day to give blood, ostensibly extending my planning period by two hours and helping me avoid the after-lunch rush of freshmen.

I'm kidding.

But I did decide to donate, and things went swimmingly. Another teacher so graciously covered my ninth grade class, but not before snapping a picture of me and another student...a student who I love more than I'd care to admit, who is part of a family who I've known my entire thirty-four years of life.

Here's the pic.

Obviously a real intense moment, a moment full of caring and love. 
The teacher who was covering my class (who is a math teacher)—instead of just sitting them down and boring them to tears for an hour—took matters into her own hands and threw the picture up on the SmartBoard, then had them write a short essay describing what was happening in the scene (still think we should step it up, Fallin?).

I walked back into her classroom towards the end of the period, and the entire class looked up from their projects and began to laugh. I glanced up at the SmartBoard and put two and two together, and I smiled. The other teacher began to tell me what was happening, and had all the students gather their work and hand it to me. What followed was one of the best moments of my short eighteen-month teaching career.

Sometimes, I feel like I am blessed with moments of happiness so pure, so distilled, that they're meant never to be forgotten. Moments where you smile, you laugh, you cry, and then laugh again as you're wiping tears and snot all over your face just so you can see what you're consuming.

So as I was wiping tears and snot all over my face, I read the following gems. Now listen up: I know the spelling is atrocious, and I know the grammar is bad. We're working on it. As much as I'd like to be an actual miracle worker, I'm not, but I'm a damn fine teacher, and we're working on it. So judge or judge not, but as the great Ricky from Sunnyvale would say: "Make my words," if you make a comment about the spelling or grammar, I will scour your Facebook feed with all that I am and will bring your every error to light. These are my kids. Enjoy this like I did.

Her story is done, y'all. 
Me being in birth was a popular theme, maybe I should work on my blood giving pose? 
For the record, you could wax my legs smooth and not notice any difference. I am not a hairy guy. 
If this kid only knew how many times I've looked like this because I've eaten something that isn't good for me.
Hey, my reputation went down the drain when I publicly admitted to crying over your stories. 
Again with the leg waxing, is this a natural position for leg waxing? 
I died a noble death, much like the late Albus Dumbledore. Harry Potter reference achieved. 
I can't figure out if I want to hug this kid or accidentally punch her in the neck. MR. SLOAT OUT.
Well, I mean, doesn't everyone poop like this? Just me? Let's just forget this one. 
*crickets* mmmmm Nacho Day. 
There were so many more, one actually said it looked like I'd just heard all the Destiny servers went down (I brayed like a donkey), a few more about waxing, a few more about pooping, a bunch more about giving birth, and then a few solid hundred about how noble and brave I looked (just kidding they were about pooping). 

If you're a student, you keep reading. Everyone else get out of here after this paragraph. This is my response to you voting whatever you did on SQ779, and I'm through talking about that now. I understand your reasoning, and I'm sorry for lying to you, but "make my words," it was a small stumble along a long and loyal path that will end with my death or retirement from Okay Public Schools. I don't blame you. Now go. Young person, keep reading. 

Thank you. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for taking time out of your day to make me laugh, and to make me feel loved (YOU LOVE ME I'M TELLING ALL YOUR FRIENDS). You gave me a moment I will remember for the rest of my life, and a story I'll tell future students, some of which might even be your kids. Thank you. You are amazing, you are a gifted writer, you are a great human being, and these stories will stay in a box for me to pull out and remind myself just how much I love this job. You did that. You are responsible for my continued happiness. Thank you. 

Now do your dang research paper. I'll see you Monday, and we'll act like this never happened. 

Love you.