A Different Perspective

I can remember as a student, hoping and wishing that the teachers would come off strike so that we can get back to school. Never truly understanding why the teachers were striking or what they were asking for besides more money, I just wanted to go back to school. I hated sitting at home and I have always been very passionate about education. As a parent and an educator, I am now experiencing a strike from a different position and gaining a new perspective.

Many onlookers do not truly understand the essence of what it means to be an educator. People who have never had the opportunity to enter a classroom as a teacher or interact with children on any level as educators do, think it’s a pretty cushy job. We get the weekends and summers off, holidays off, set schedule, go in at 7:00 am get off at 3:00 pm, but it’s not that simple. Yes, you’re right we do have weekends and holidays off but how much of the weekend/holiday is spent grading papers, writing lesson plans, attending sports/academic events to support our students and our own children, or working part time jobs to pay for the resources we need in our classrooms? Yes, you’re right we do have summers off but how much of our summer do we spend taking classes or attending professional development so that we can keep up with relevant pedagogy and curriculum and can continue to offer our students a fair and equitable education? Or how many of us work summer school or other summer programs to help our students stay ahead or get on track for graduation or just to supplement our income since we are not receiving fair and equitable wages? Yes, you’re right again we may clock in at 7:00 am and clock out at 3:00 pm but our work day does not end there. How many educators sponsor clubs/organizations and other programs to help enrich their students’ educational experience? How many of educators stay after hours to collaborate with their colleagues on how to improve lessons or how they can reach a student who is ready to give up, or how to address behavior issues that are being exhibited by students? Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

The truth of the matter is, there are parts of the job of an educator that the public will never see or ever be able to understand which makes it difficult for people to begin to understand the reasoning behind a strike. The decision to strike is a tough one because in the end, we know the students are impacted greatly. As passionate as educators are, the line has to be drawn somewhere. Especially, when you continue to meet every additional demand and deadline that is given to you no matter how little time given to complete it. The teachers in District 189 accepted a pay freeze for two years prior because the district was in financial straits, they continued to work in good faith, and to go above and beyond the call of duty despite the lack of support, much needed resources, and lack of respect shown from Board Administration. No to mention, we sit and watch hundreds and thousands of dollars invested into outside consultants and other agencies to come in and provide “professional development” on strategies that we are already using in the classroom or has no alignment to the curriculum that we are expected to teach. It’s a slap in the face for the Superintendent to then turn around and tell the educators that there is NO MONEY to invest in them.

At the end of the day, the teachers in East St. Louis School District 189 are not asking for anything that is not expected in the professional arena. I mean geesh, the Superintendent himself has received anywhere between a 9-19% pay increase each year he has been in the district. Name me a profession where the employees are not compensated for their level of education and years of experience. Name me a job where employees do not receive raises after being on their job after a certain amount of time. Even minimum wage employees receive an increase of pay after being on the job for so long.

So as an adult I have gained a new perspective, a teacher strike isn’t just about money, it’s about the respect and dignity for arguably the most important professions in the world. Without a teacher, where would you be? Not reading this, that’s for sure! Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

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