Tuesday, September 14

Teaching the Importance of a Strike

Today, I had the privilege and honor of walking along side my local teachers in support of our strike. The kids are currently out of school, due to the strike, and being an avid volunteer in their school, I felt it is necessary to show our support. So the kids and I marched. Teaching social activism is extremely important at their young age. You fight for what you believe in.

I made a sign for the event, and used my wit (the one my friend Shannon so dearly loves) to get the teachers laughing and show how much we love them. The sign???

Yep. I did it. And I am unashamed to show my pride. Teachers deserve better than what they are getting right now. And I have a voice, and use it loud and clear.

Something happened along the way of all this dieting business. (By the way, still sitting pretty at 180.2, just waiting to hit the land of 170s again...)

Maybe it was all the times I walked into a clothing store for "normal sized" girls and had the salesgirls give me looks, or suggest I shop at the plus sized store. Or maybe it was the times I learned to overcome my own desires and not cheat on the junk food.

Whenever it happened, I'm glad it did. I learned to speak up for the underdogs.

And teachers are the underdogs of our society. They spend all day in a classroom with kids who aren't taught respect or kindness at home. They come home, hearts wrought with frustration about how to help students that communities have already written off. They talk to kids who's parents are too busy to talk themselves. They give advice, they nurture and they care. Teachers are my kind of people.

I wrote an article and submitted it to the local paper. It has not been printed as of yet, but I feel the message itself needs to be printed. Luckily, I have a personal blog where I can voice my opinions freely. So I am sharing this article with you here.

I encourage you to support your children's teachers however you can. Give them stickers, bring them coffee mugs, heck- most teachers I know spend incredible amounts of money on pencils for their students. Bring them pencils and pens and loose leaf paper! Do whatever you can to make their day. They won't forget your generosity, I promise.

And now, I'm pleased to present to you:

Charlie's Take on the Strike

5th grade was a miserable year for me. I was one of those awkward kids- pudgy, nerdy and unable to keep my mouth from running at any given time. (Not so different from the awkward adult I currently am..) I was not good at math or science, so I never dreamed of being a doctor. I was too emotional to become a decent lawyer. I was looking for my niche in life in the halls of a school in Danville District 118.

I still remember when I found that niche, over 20 years ago. It was the day I read a creative writing assignment in front of my class, about the 10 things I would take with me if I became deserted on an island. I made the statement “I will bring Tums.”

Judy Rudnicke, the 3rd grade teacher who was running the creative writing program, looked at me with big twinkling eyes.

“Why would you take tums?”

“To keep the heartburn away. Because in my story I am 7 months pregnant with twins. I’m gonna give birth to them later in the story.”

“That’s quite a story, Charlyn.”

“Yes, it is. And it gets good.”

“I’ll bet it does.”

From that moment on, I knew I was meant to be a writer. So did Judy. She always encouraged me in the hallways, asking if I’d written any stories lately, and could she read them. As an awkward 5th grader in the throws of puberty, desperate to fit in- Judy gave me a place to call home- with a pencil, some paper, and a whole world of adventures at my disposal.

During my years at North Ridge, I experienced trauma and duress in grades 6-8, as many jr high kids do. There is something especially trying about that age. (If you are a parent who has survived a child going through that time, I tip my hat to you. I’m close with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in the house, and dreading the middle school experience.) The only constant through those years was being in Paula Hurst’s class.

I loved her class. She allowed us to encounter grammar and literature like no other teacher I have had, by bringing a passion to and for the written word. I remember the year she assigned reports about “The Pig Man” by Paul Zindel. For my project, I decided to paint a picture that incorporated the things in the book I most related too. And Paula loved it. It was in that classroom where I learned art carrying symbolism can be a powerful tool. It challenges both the artist and the spectator. A lesson I have brought with me into adult hood. Nothing is ever as it seems at first glance. Paula taught me the importance of looking deeper for the truth in books, wisdom, and life in general.

I could go on and on about how more teachers made me the person I am today- that when I win my first Tony award, it will be dedicated to Jan and Larry Voorhees. Or that I can argue in French with the best of them thanks to Miss Schofield. So many teachers have formed my life, one classroom, one assignment at a time. I owe a lot to my former teachers. Because as it turns out, they were right about me. I seem to have a knack for the arts. Writing, music, painting… but I never would have known that if I hadn’t sat at their desks and been molded by their passion for education.

I still keep in touch with the teachers that changed my life for the better. It wasn’t a classroom that was formed in the midst of my education, or a GPA, or a diploma on a wall.

What formed was a family I lean on to this day.

So often our teachers are the unsung heroes of this community. District 118 teachers have produced doctors, lawyers, TV producers, and humble writers like myself. They have produced managers and CEOs, business moguls and entrepreneurs. Computer programmers and scientists. Educators and principals and composers and musicians. (I know this for a fact because I am on Facebook avoiding laundry and keeping tabs on former school mates.)

Our city has turned out productive members of society by the thousands because of our teachers.

Right now, the same teachers who we owe our community to, are in a rough spot. Negotiating contracts. And it’s not going well.

In the spirit of fairness, I understand the District Administration is worried about the economy. I know they are worried that money is tight. It’s tight everywhere. We feel the sting as much in our home budgets as they do with the district budget. We feel it writing out checks for school lunch and buying shoes for feet that won’t stop growing. Buying backpacks and groceries. It is no different in our homes than it is in our schools. In that sense, I understand the position of the board.

However, our teachers are standing up for the little guys. And little gals. They are fighting to make sure that the children of our community get those “moments” of wonder just like their parents did. Working so education provides the chance to become something better and brighter for kids of all economic levels. Asking for smaller classroom sizes so teachers can encourage each child to be their best at whatever they love most. A worthy cause? Indeed. There is nothing more noble.

The teachers are not asking for much. Far less than what is fair. Unfortunately, what they are asking for is being denied, and we are now in the throws of a strike.

As a former student and current parent in and of District 118, I stand united with the teachers. I believe that their demands won’t break the bank, and they deserve what they are asking for. Because if we don’t invest in our future today, the future won’t be able to invest in our tomorrow.

I plead with the Board to think about the faces of our future. They are in our schools right now. Our children- our Timmys and Briannas and Sarahs and Jacobs- each face is ready to receive their future. They deserve to have the same opportunities we were given:

For our teachers to hand them a world where anything is possible.

Even being deserted on an island 7 months pregnant with twins…


Angela Pea said...

What an amazing article!! Ooooh I hope it gets published!!

Big *SWAK* to you today, Charlie, for taking your kids to the picket line.

And here's to 170's Land - may you get there sooner than later!

bsmith said...

Charlie...I have had a rough day today. Nobody, I repeat, nobody wishes for a strike. This has been a difficult thing to go through. I didn't know there would be so much 'ugliness'. I have heard negative comments coming from folks that I thought I would never hear-in the streets and on facebook. I have seen some things that I thought I would never see. I have learned a lot about the human race and friends, who I thought were friends, through this process. I have learned that not everyone researches facts before they open their mouths or type their fingers on the keyboard.

Here is my point, your blog made me smile and it made me remember WHY WE ARE DOING THIS!!! Thank you for your love and support. I love your sign. :) Very creative.

Now, would it be okay to wait until this strike is over to schedule lessons? I hope that's okay-and I hope it is VERY SOON! It would make the most sense for the time being. Thanks, Charlie!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your support and your blog. I am both a parent of a child in this district and a teacher. Yes, I want my child in school, but I want the smaller class sizes for her and the safety for her and her teachers. It's thanks to the parents like you that I truly enjoy my job. One positive note, comment, conversation with a parent can outweigh the negatives. Thank you for being that kind of parent.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, thank you for sharing! You helped me remember why I AM a TEACHER and enjoy it. I hope I have touched a child's heart the way Judy and Paula have yours. Thank you for putting that smile on my face today when I saw your creative sign!

teachersupporter said...

Bless your heart! I was feeling so down after reading all of the negative comments about the teachers in 118, but your blog brightened my day! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I loved your post! So many times people do not realize (at that point in time) how much their teacher cares and helps them. I hear the stories of kids who come back to thank the teachers who they did not thank at that time. People are angry but are they angry at the right people for the right reasons. Could the teachers be working right now, yes however that would allow the board to continue the stale mate because no real pressure will be put on them to resolve the situation. Therefore it (the strike) is a forced evil. I too work in the district. I would rather be at work with the kids. Honestly, the days go by faster there. I get frustrated one minute until a student does something so funny and then get the best laugh of my life. You really never know what a child will say or do and sometimes it is hard to hold it in. Anyway I got lost in good thoughts for a moment...Thank you for your support and thank everyone who is supporting the 118 staff! We do appreciate it and it send us the message that you really do care! THANK YOU!

Lee said...

I really do feel bad for the teachers, and sincerely desire they be paid their worth. The question is, who will pay them. You see, the Board of Education gets their money from me, and I have no more to spare.

The Incredible Shrinking Woman said...

Lee, I highly reccommend we take money from the school board bonuses they so graciously gave themselves. The bonuses ranged up to $40,000. (Oh, this is on TOP of the salary they already get, which is more than any of the teachers striking will ever see from their paychecks.)
There's plenty to share in the cookie jar, as long as we isolate the folks who are hogging the cookies. :)

Lee said...

I can totally agree with that! If we can find a way to pay teachers what they are worth, while allowing me to afford my children the life I work hard for them to have, let's do it. I was a bit affronted by the fact that none of those talks have brought up frezes on administrator salaries and benefits, or reductions.

Lee said...

I also should point out that the same people awarding these bonuses, and who are not showing up to negotiate themselves, but must send a lawyer, whose schedule does not make Danville a priority, are the ones WE elected. Remember this the next time elections come up!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for putting this out there! I am a Dist #118 teacher. Seeing your sign yesterday made me smile and reading your blog yesterday (and again today) made me teary. We all appreciate the support we are getting from our parents and students more than we could EVER fully express. This week has been one of the darkest weeks of my life, but you have assisted in giving me a little sunshine and that is worth SO MUCH!! Thank you!

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