When the news first broke, I was shocked. While I was not surprised that the next target would be teachers’ unions; after all, has anyone heard of “Waiting for Superman?” the swiftness and ferocity of these attacks left me dazed. Nervous chatter in my school led to anger, tears and deep, deep concern. Not just financially but also over what our classrooms will end up looking like once this “reform” is complete. I started the year with 27 students in my room, it was a tight squeeze, with no union bargaining rights, I have no doubt what will happen to class sizes.
So I wrote about my fears and placed my private thoughts out because that is what I do. The response was immediate. Lovers and haters abounded and the dialogue continued. I debated my point many times but once the attacks started to get vicious, personal, and irrelevant, I started to delete comments. I have never before deleted comments. Yet I could not provide a forum for people with so much hate in their words, so much desire to see me fired or even better, harmed in some way. Is this what America has become?
This debate has destroyed friendships, torn families apart (mine included) and caused so much grief. One thing is paying more for your benefits, and yes this amounts to about a $5,000 pay-cut for me (look up starting teaching salaries and you can see what I earn) but it is so much more than that. By removing our bargaining privileges, we are saying yes to larger class sizes, to longer school days, to less collaboration, to firing without just cause or even a grievance process. We are removing protection for those teachers that dare to speak up for the sake of their students. That dare to try different things and challenge the status quo. We are removing community and communication. I fear for my own situation, but I fear more for the education of all the children of Wisconsin.
So the hate continues, the lies swell up and I am reduced to nothing more than a bad teacher. Someone that others will cheer for when I get fired, someone others will clap at when I cannot pay my bills. People say that teachers have not felt the recession and that it is our turn to share the pain. They say this without knowing us or our situations; I am the sole provider for my family, the recession caused that, so do not tell me that I do not know or share the pain of others in this state. Do not tell me that it is my time to pay. Do not tell me that I am a thug who does not care about the children. Do not insult me as a teacher. Do not insult me as a human being. I care deeply about the children I teach, that is why I chose to be a teacher. And that is why I fight. For the sake of my own child, for the sake of my students. For the sake of all the children of Wisconsin.