Feature photo by Photo by Emmanuel Garcia | This post originally appeared on Real Chalk.
I want everyone to know that because I am on strike does not mean I am not working. Today I worked from 6am to 6pm. Twelve hours of protesting and raising awareness via picketing, yelling, screaming, walking in the sun, bike riding, social media, and rallying. I am not complaining, because I am used to working long hours without pay (yes, I am not getting paid right now; that is the drawback of the strike). I am not complaining, because I am aware of what is at stake and I am willing to suffer knowing that there are hundreds and thousands of people on my side joining me in solidarity. And you better believe that during those 12 hours (and beyond) I have been thinking about my students and my future units and curriculum almost non-stop. We are constantly working to broadcast our dedication to a field that gets belittled as nothing more than glorified babysitting.
I want everyone to know that we are indeed not just “having fun,” as the media will have you think (and trust me, they will spin it as such; as a way to twist the truth to make the teachers dancing and cheering on the streets seem like a greed-driven fox-trot while students are left to fend for themselves on the streets). If anything, we are trying our hardest to make the best out of the worst situation we have ever been in.
There is nothing fun about fighting oppression. There is some fun, however, in joining together with workers from different schools, united for the same cause. Together we lift up our spirits in order to lift the weight off our individual shoulders and hold up that weight as a collective whole. It is in this solidarity that I find the most fun, because we have to keep our spirits high or else the fight is lost.
Today I met some great teachers that I would have never met if I was stuck in an oversized underfunded classroom from sunrise to sunset. Teachers from Burbank Elementary, Beaubien Elementary, Kelvyn Park, Amundsen, Lane Tech, Kelly HS and even teachers from my own school that I normally would not have had time to speak with. We all share the same common bond: the desire to give our students the best public education simply because they DESERVE the best. I learned so much, we shared so much, and I stood and marched with some of the most passionate people I have ever met. I have never felt more proud to be doing what I am doing, and I am literally CRAVING nothing more than to get back into the classroom and teach my heart out to these kids.
And then I come home and turn on my laptop and cellphone and see a flood of likes and posts and comments, and I know that I am blessed to have such amazing friends, coworkers, and family who stand by me for as long as it takes. I have had people like Milan Tomic, Aaron Juan, Professor Tim Libretti from NEIU, Gozamos.com, and countless others stand up and defend the teachers’ strike to those who misunderstand the work that we do. Thank you for expelling your energy towards informing others so that we can focus our energy on informing the CPS Board of Education that we will not stand for an unfair future for our students.
Thank you for those who have shown support by honking your horns, waving and giving us the thumbs up, cheering us on, holding up signs, showing up at our pickets to deliver coffee or shake hands, liking our statuses, sharing our posts and pictures, giving us food and drink, wearing red, texting us, calling us, calling aldermen and senators, and choosing to march alongside with us.
United we stand. This fight isn’t over. Continue flooding us with love. Together we are making history.