Open the gates and seize the day
Don’t be afraid and don’t delay
Nothing can break us, no one can make us
Give our rights away… -“Seize the Day” from Disney’s The Newsies
The first two days of the strike have been amazing. On Day 1, I arrived at my school at 6:30am. There was a bit of waiting around for our Picket Captain, but once she got there, signs were distributed and the strike began.
We picketed in front of the school, marched around the block and received lots of supportive horn honking from passersby. At one point, some folks from a nearby school marched down to us before marching back up the block. They had some seasoned protesters among them. If I didn’t know better, and if they weren’t all wearing CTU red, I would have thought they were members of the Occupy movement. Today, I heard they set up a snack tent on the school lawn. I decided that I’m going to check out their encampment tomorrow, if I can.
On Monday, after our four hour shift at school, we broke for the day and reconvened downtown at 3:30 for a huge rally. Thousands of teachers and supporters gathered. The helicopter shots were amazing. Looking around and seeing all those people, my friends, my colleagues, and all our allies – people who support me (us) and care about our cause- every where, a sea of red. It was very emotional.
This morning, it took a bit more effort to stay hype. We were all exhausted from Day 1, but our morale was good. We went down to a busy intersection near our school and almost every car that passed honked their support. I led a few chants today and danced on the street corner.
One the first day, a teacher said that they heard elsewhere that sometimes, after a strike, your relationship with your co-workers change, for better or worse. A strike, like any other struggle, brings out the best or worst in us. It’s a test of our mettle and how strong we feel about the issues. Based on the first couple of days, I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues. I still don’t know them that well and we may not ever be the best of friends, but seeing them on the line, feeling their enthusiasm and their strength, fuels me. It’s inspiring.
Unfortunately, not everyone was with us on the line this morning. Yesterday and today, we had a scab cross the line. A union member, who is claiming not to be a union member, has been going to work daily since the strike began. Today, we invited the individual to come join us, but they refused. It was sad, really. I couldn’t help but think that this person must feel isolated and not a true part of our union, otherwise, they might be in solidarity with us. I have no way of knowing if this is true, but I believe that, even if this person was worried about money or job security, that might be eclipsed if they felt they were really one of us and that we actually cared about the individual and not whether or not they were scabbing. Prior to the strike, I heard some of my colleagues make some comments about the individual which cause me to believe that this individual probably doesn’t feel like a true member of the community.
It hurts my heart because in the short time that I’ve been at the school, I do very much feel a part of the community. I feel like we somehow left this person behind and wonder why folks aren’t more concerned that this person has isolated themselves.
Our principal and other non-CTU folks at our school seem supportive. The first day, our principal came out and greeted us. Today, someone came out and told us how dull and sad it was inside the school without students or teachers. Basically, there’s nothing to do.
The school I teach at is a small school sharing a building with two other small schools. My school and one other are public schools and we walk the line together. The other school is a charter so there have been some students and teachers entering the building, but they’re not union.
I’m looking forward to Day 3. I took some time today to rest up and I’m ready to press on. The mayor and the School Board keep pushing the anti-teacher propaganda and a lot of folks still don’t know what we’re fighting for or why it’s important. Wearing my union red makes me a target and I know some of my colleagues have experienced negative backlash. Today, on the bus ride home, I got to educate a young man about some of the issues. He was already a supporter, but he had no idea that our raises weren’t the only sticking point. He had no idea about the bad working conditions and he immediately made the connection between our working conditions and the student learning environment.
Teachers are NOT striking just for a raise. Teachers are NOT trying to jeopardize student success. Teachers are NOT going back to work until the powers-that-be see reason and agree to concede to our strikeable demands.
We strike because we care and because our students matter. Their futures cannot be bought and sold. Many of our students and parents know what’s going on and they stand with us.
Stand with us. Stand with Teachers and Counselors and Nurses and Support Staff. Stand for Students and Parents. Stand for our Communities.