I almost began this post by writing “welcome back from Spring Break,” but of course, if you’re a teacher, you don’t really get a break. How did you spend your week away from classes? I graded, finished three pieces of writing, got notes back on two more, and moved house. Nobody becomes a teacher because they don’t enjoy work.
But as I did all that, I took every opportunity I could to read up on the incredibly inspiring teachers’ strike happening in West Virginia. Here’s a good overview. Part of what’s inspiring to me about the situation is the sheer determination of these workers. When their union reached an “agreement” with the state of West Virginia that didn’t have majority support, they went right on striking. I hope we’ll see the same level of determination from teachers in Oklahoma, one of the most exploitative states in the union, who seem to be mulling a strike of their own.
But what’s also inspiring to me about recent events in West Virginia is the way that, even as they planned to withhold their labor (the only thing a worker can withhold) from a system that exploits and abuses it, the West Virginia teachers reminded us what a teacher’s heart looks like. They knew that school cancellations would prevent many needy students from getting what was in some cases their only meal of the day. So they packed lunches for those students, by the thousands.
That’s who teachers are.
The West Virginia teachers, and maybe now the Oklahoma teachers, are doing their part and more to raise the price of their labor, improve students’ learning conditions (which are their working conditions), and redistribute power in their states from a self-interested governing elite to the people who do the actual work of building a civilization.
Are you ready to do yours?