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…