The Silent Teachers On Strike

My first year teaching was very difficult in the beginning.  I was 25 at the time when I took my first job as a fourth grade teacher.  I was so excited.  I landed a job at own former elementary school, taking the place of my third grade teacher.

Come mid August and I walked into the building with bags of school supplies to decorate my room.  I still remember the way the school felt, how it smelled damp and misty.  I opened the door to my room and was met by a wave of heat, humidity, and a cute little mouse running across the room (he wasn't so cute at the time).  My chalkboard needed to be cleaned.  My desk was ready to fill.  The bulletin board was anxious for a classroom management program.  Desks were lined up and I could still see paint drops on the chairs from summer touch ups.

I was more excited than I had ever been in my life.  I knew teaching was my calling, and I finally made it.

A colleague came into my room while I hung the cursive alphabet up across the chalkboard.  She stared at me, looking for the right words to say, and then she quickly looked away.  I heard teachers debating in the hallway and I knew something was going on, however, I kept to myself, as this was my special time.

My colleague stated that the teachers were about to go on strike in regard to raises.  She said I was in a very risky position being a new teacher.  She told me to stay out of the picket line, as 'they' will be watching for next year. At the time, I didn't understand the union very well, nor did I understand all of their intentions.  To be honest, I didn't want to know too much.  I knew I had to pay my dues (as this is what I was told).  Do I know better now to question everything?  Absolutely.  At 25 I was young, naive, and excited to teach. I didn't want to become involved as nobody was going to rain on my parade.

Another colleague came in my room about an hour later, pressuring me to join the strike.  She forced papers in my face and data that meant nothing to me at the time.

She left the room.  Tears ran down my face. I did not know what to do.

I didn't come to school the next day because I was uncomfortable and uneducated about the union.  I never really learned how it worked (at that time), and/or the great effects a teacher strike could potentially bring to the community.  I was nervous and embarrassed.  My personal world in my little class had the potential of becoming a public outcry.

Luckily for me, the strike ended within 2 days.  I never walked the picket line because I avoided it. If I were in school for those first few days, I do not know what I would have done then.  I know now.  15 years later, I know more about the system than I could have ever imagined.  I know to question, debate and share my opinion.  I know when to be a leader and when to follow.  At 25 years old, I didn't know any better.  I didn't know the game or the players.

I began teaching and I was proud of my accomplishments and the success and growth of my students over school year.

I was a quiet teacher who went along for the ride because I was simply ignorant, nor did I feel my personal beliefs were of value to anyone, as we had one person who spoke for the entire group.

I was a silent teacher on strike.  I believe that there are many silent teachers on strike right now; in the exact same place I was on that August day so long ago.

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Filed under: Student Needs, teachers

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