Another day, another teacher rally.
The most recent rally was in Oregon, where 600 schools closed Wednesday when teachers gathered to advocate for better working and learning conditions for students. Because not even the best teachers are very effective when classes are too large, overcrowding in classrooms is first on the list of the concerns of the teachers in Oregon. Also on the list is the lack of support staff such as nurses, mental health counselors, and librarians. Teachers want art, music, and physical education classes to be restored after being eliminated during budget cuts ten years ago.
Those are the same issues that drove Nashville teachers to call for a sickout earlier this week. Likewise, North Carolina and South Carolina teachers echoed those concerns in their rallies in Raleigh and Columbia May 1 where they asked to have a voice in policy discussions about working conditions and teacher pay.
In every case, state and local legislators seemed startled that teachers spoke up. In North Carolina, state superintendent of education Mark Johnson sent out a tone-deaf email for Teacher Appreciation Week that touted teacher pay as proof that the profession is doing well. In South Carolina, state superintendent of education Molly Spearman dismissed teachers’ concerns with a snarky letter that chastised them for hiring substitute teachers in order to join the weekday rally.
Another day, another school shooting.
In the most recent shooting, the murdered and injured students attended a school in Colorado close to where 12 students and one teacher were murdered at Columbine High 20 years ago. But that’s a coincidence. School shootings happen everywhere, anytime.
Next week, or in the weeks after that, it might be another high school like Marjory Stoneman Douglas or an elementary school like Sandy Hook or a college campus like UNC Charlotte.
And there will be another one. Despite our collective despair, legislative inaction guarantees that.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine a world where we valued children — not in the knee-jerk-lip-service-sound-bite kind of way that passes for concern now, but actual hard work and sacrifice and selfless choices made about their health and well-being.
If we valued children, we would understand that the best thing we could do to insure their future is to invest in public education and the sense of community it engenders.
We would fully fund public schools so that every child attended one that was clean, safe and well-resourced. Their teachers would be the most compassionate, knowledgeable college graduates, drawn to the profession by good pay and the chance to make a positive impact on a child. The adults who care for our children during the day and devote their lives to their care — the bus drivers and cafeteria workers and teachers’ aides and custodians — would make living wages. Children who wanted to learn to play a musical instrument or learn a skilled trade would have teachers to show them how. Children struggling academically would have extra help. Children struggling emotionally would, too.
If we valued children, we would not only educate them but keep them safe. We would not elect politicians beholden to the gun lobby. We would broaden our world view and recognize that growing wealth inequality, the rise of authoritarianism, and climate change are not hypothetical threats but clear and present dangers to our children’s future.
We’d set our gaze further than our own self-interest and model being the kind of people we want our children to grow up to be, if they have the chance.