It’s time to come in from the cold.
As the teacher strike in Strongsville drags on, take a look at the picket lines in front of your child’s school. You’ll notice unfamiliar faces. That’s because this debate has taken a major turn– it’s no longer a Strongsville issue. Our kids, and our teachers, are being used as pawns by two powerful political forces: the Ohio Education Association vs. Governor John Kasich.
Certainly this last week, we’ve seen very ugly behavior by individuals from all facets. We’ve seen some parents hurling vicious insults at teachers. We’ve seen some teachers acting like animals, giving into a mob mentality.
Enough is enough. My kids are in that building, and they’re crying.
There are bright spots in this, to be sure. Students who have stepped up to lead themselves, educate themselves, and organize themselves. Teachers using compassion and good judgment by refraining from spewing angry rhetoric at children. Our district administrators and OAPSE members have risen to an unimaginable challenge, and they are doing their very best to protect, service, educate our children. Substitute teachers are finding their footing continuing to help our children learn and grow. There are parents and community members recognizing the humanity of the people on the picket line, and refusing to group all teachers together and define the group by the actions of a few. We have seen community members supporting people, regardless of what side of the debate they are on. Those sort civil behaviors are what will define us in the future.
So what can we do? If you’re a parent, you can continue to talk honestly to your children. Show them their individual teachers. Don’t paint every teacher with the same brush. If your child’s teacher is acting inappropriately, tell your child why you have a problem with it. If your child’s teacher is acting professionally, and taking a stand for what they believe in, make sure you notice that, too. Our kids take their cues from us.
If you’re a community member, don’t jump to assumptions. Listen, read, judge for yourself. Ask real questions to people who might have answers. Don’t let these rifts become permanent chasms in our city. When this is said and done, we still have to live here. Do not let the scorched earth mentality ruin our future. The teachers in question are our friends, our neighbors, our family members. They’re the faces at girl scout meeting and the coaches at t-ball. Before you speak, remember that.
If you’re a teacher, though, the hardest work is for you. I beg you, please, don’t let yourself be used as a pawn. Stand up for yourself and your family's future. Your union should be serving your best interest and protecting you. Ask yourself honestly if that’s what is happening. If it’s not, contact your leadership with that message. Good leaders respond to their members. Demand for that to happen.
Finally, if you’re a child, on behalf of all these grown-ups, I’m sorry. The adults have brought you into an ugly situation. It’s not your fault, and it’s not fair. Your teachers belong in your classroom. It’s high time somebody remembers that. It’s time for our teachers to come in from the cold. We need to get everybody back to the table to make that happen.