This past Friday night I received a call from some close teacher friends in Oklahoma. They wanted to talk about the current situation in their state and the impending teacher walkout. The conversation lasted almost an hour. Although they asked for my opinions and input, I think that more than anything they wanted to know that they weren’t alone.
And alone they are not.
Tens of thousands of teachers walked out of their classrooms on Monday in Oklahoma and Kentucky. This follows a similar action in West Virginia and an impending strike looming in my home state of Arizona. As parents and teachers across this country rally for better pay and more funding for their classrooms, one thing has become abundantly clear, as a people and a profession, we are FED UP and done waiting for change.
Although the issues surrounding public education are political, they aren't partisan. Both parties have had chances to rectify the problem and have failed to muster the political will, or courage, to make it happen. Teachers are therefore being forced to stand up for themselves and their students in a way they never imagined.
To teach is to serve.
Like other professionals engaged in serving their communities, we as teachers should be afforded the requisite tools necessary to do our jobs at the highest levels and in the safest ways. This is a privilege we as citizens have and a burden we should gladly embrace.
To teach is to have courage.
The issues at play here are complex and are as unique as they are personal. Each teacher and administrator has deeply held personal and professional convictions that guide their decision making processes. But whatever decision is reached, it took courage to get there. Courage to stand up and make voices heard and be held accountable for their beliefs.
Eventually, these teachers and students will return to class and I sincerely hope the events of the last few days will be the source of some rich learning opportunities. THIS is social studies. THIS is economics. THIS is language arts. THIS is music education. THIS IS A LIFE LESSON, especially when it comes to teaching music.
Teaching music is different!
Music teachers hold a special place in their school communities. Increased visibility and the special relationship they have with their students comes with a greater degree of scrutiny and accountability. Yes, in many places, music teachers are more than leaders of young people, they are leaders in their community as well. In times of crisis, leaders must take a stand and lead.
Needless to say, I am as proud as I have ever been to be a part of this profession.
So as our conversation came to a close, I told my dear friends that no matter what they decided, I loved and supported them and liked their chances for success.
After all, who better to lead a march than a conductor?
Have a great week!