If you haven’t seen Oklahoma Education Association’s (OAE) press conference last month, I strongly suggest you go watch it. You don’t have to watch the budget proposal, or comments by other organizations, or even the Q and A at the end. Watch the two high school student testimonials. Watch Hope, who has impaired hearing, talk about her high school experience. In my opinion, this is why we rally.
Whatever your political leanings, it is undeniable that our kids deserve better. They have an average of 35 students to one teacher. Have you ever tried to get 35 kids of any age to follow directions for 50 mins? Oftentimes, secondary students cannot take the classes they want, or even need, due to teacher shortages. Oklahoma is 50th in the nation for per student spending. Our kids do not have the materials, spaces, or teachers they NEED to grow into problem-solving, critical thinking, active participants in our society.
I could easily list dozens of demoralizing things I have experienced in my seven years as an educator. I won’t, because I believe in focusing on the positive. This belief may be the only thing that has kept me from quitting or moving. I have spent a majority of my teaching career in Norman. This is depressing because the Norman Public School District is one of the best in Oklahoma. We are incredibly fortunate to live and work in a city where people vote “yes” on school bonds and daily show their support for Public Education.
In one of my former lives, my full-time job was to help principals plan Professional Development for their staff. I have been in more than 37 school sites across Oklahoma coordinating and facilitating Teacher Professional Development. I worked with Principals and teachers in public and private schools. I need you to know we are the lucky ones.
Some kids have spent their entire school career never being taught by a teacher with a degree in Education. Some districts can no longer afford transportation for their students. I can name on one hand how many schools I know of where the staff feels prepared to do what is best for kids.
This protest is not just about teacher salaries. It is about the untenable school conditions our kids have to live with every day, the lack luster appeal we have to companies because they wouldn’t want their kids in our schools, the deep cuts to basic services our students need to be healthy and safe, and the far less than living wages for support staff, state employees, and teachers alike.
We walk for the students who literally cannot learn from subs. We walk for the low socioeconomic students who feel safest at school, even though they practice responses for potential gun violence every six months. We walk for the gifted kids who are not being enriched because of all the other things their teacher has to worry about.
We walk for the kids who need one-on-one interventions daily but don’t get them due to a lack of staff. We walk for the single parent teachers who have to choose between paying for daycare or rent each month. We walk for the full-time support staff who endure endless physical assaults and get paid a measly $19,100 PER YEAR. We walk for the kindergarteners who have a hard enough time adjusting to their first year of school, without being overwhelmed by 32 other kindergartners who are equally as needy.
— OK Education Assoc. (@okea) April 9, 2018
We walk for the kids who do okay in school but will never be great because they can’t take textbooks home to study and a lack of copy paper for the teacher to send pertinent information home. We walk for the high school student who cannot take AP classes because their school cannot afford to send their teacher to required training. We walk for the elementary student who has to have class in the noisy library because their classroom is no longer habitable.
We walk for the kids who have to ride the bus for 2 hrs because their local school was consolidated with the closest larger district due to lack of funding. We walk for the kids who have teachers with alternative certifications and felony records because they were the best applicant for the job.
We walk in the hopes that no of those things will ever happen again. We walk for your kids. We walk for the future.