BY SHARON MARTIN
She thinks it is unethical for teachers to strike.
“So when do we strike?” I asked. “When the kids are out of school? When the Legislature isn’t in session?”
“If they don’t like the contract, just don’t sign it. Go somewhere else.”
“That’s what we’ve been doing. That’s why so many teachers without teacher training are in the classrooms right now.”
I tried to point out how I, with a graduate degree, would have trouble paying a mortgage and all my expenses on a teacher’s income. If you go to college for six years and work full time as a professional, shouldn’t you be able to afford a house?
She wouldn’t relent.
“They signed a contract. I was always taught you stood by your word.”
I’m not sure who she’s been talking to, but she had this story, too, about why teachers should just suck it up and stay.
“One guy,” she said, “went to Texas for a better job, but he couldn’t afford his property taxes there.”
Taxes pay for services! Why didn’t we think of that?
You can try to forgive the people who have never taught school or lived with a teacher or needed SNAP benefits despite working a full-time job. You should definitely try to understand people who didn’t care much for school because school failed them.
But what about those teachers who dis the teachers’ union? You are willing to take the benefits the union gets for you. Imagine how much better we’d fare if we were all union members. Strength in numbers, you know.
And what about legislators who are still buying into supply-side economics? Dr. Coburn, what kind of education can we buy for nothing?
Maybe it is time to just leave Oklahoma. I think of Lauren Zuniga’s amazing poem, “To the Oklahoma Progressives Plotting Mass Exodus.”
My family has been in Oklahoma for generations. Yes, I should stay and fight for change. But I don’t like this feeling, this understanding that to far too many people in Oklahoma, education just doesn’t matter.
We cannot give up! We cannot give up!
As poet and editor Daniel Nayeri says, “If you don’t stop, you’re unstoppable.”
We can’t let the anti-public-education people win. Teachers and their supporters can continue to change the world. We just have to hold on.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. Her latest book, Not A Prodigal, is available through Barnes and Noble. Her recent children’s book, Froggy Bottom Blues, can be purchased in hardcover or paperback from Doodle and Peck Publishingand in paperback from Amazon.