When they announced that Madison schools would be closed tomorrow for a second day in a row, my stomach sank. Schools were closed today due to a massive teacher sick-in, and they will be closed tomorrow as well. For anybody who doesn't know what's happening, have a look here. I've been struggling with my feelings of discomfort because I know that I fully support these teachers and fully disagree with Governor Walker's proposed bill to take away collective bargaining rights of most public sector employees (plus huge pay cuts for teachers). But god, the fact that kids are missing two days of school in a row, and parents are having to scramble to figure out child care, and some parents will have to stay home from their own jobs...it just really bothers me.
But I know why I feel uneasy about the schools closing. And I feel pretty confident that most other teachers feel the same way. No good teacher wants to miss a day of teaching. No good teacher wants their students to be out of school for days. But when you're left with little choice, you do what you have to do. As a good friend of mine, and an amazing public middle school teacher, said today, "I hope that people realize that teachers won't be getting paid today! This isn't a holiday; they're teaching a valuable lesson that you should stand up for what you believe in! I would much rather be in my classroom working with kids than standing in the cold fighting this bill, but it has to be done!"
Today I watched thousands of people march strongly and proudly on the Capitol today, many of whom were children and teenagers. I saw some kids and parents I recognized and my heart swelled with pride. Monday's protest totals reached 2,000 people. Yesterday's reached nearly 15,000. Today there were close to 30,000 people protesting at the Capitol. Yesterday, over 700 students from East High School walked out of school and kept walking the 3 miles up to the Capital to join in the protest and support their teachers. And I can't help but think about what an unbelievable experience this is for those students and any others that attend. How they are learning about politics and history and civil rights and discourse and passion and pride and a million other things. All in the real world, all happening right where they live. I can't help but think this way. You see, I'm a teacher. This is how we think. Every moment can be a teaching moment. Every moment can be a learning moment.
And I feel so proud to watch as other teachers risk their own livelihood to teach these kids about what it means to stand up for what they believe in, to stand up for themselves, and to stand up for their students. Teachers teach, no matter what the circumstances. And for this, teachers, I thank you.
Some pictures and video from the protest on Tuesday, 2/16/2011. Hoping for more tomorrow.
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