A Message from Those Teachers Who Won’t Be Able to Attend the Red for Ed Rally (and a Follow Up to the Dirty Little Secret)

Everyone’s excited as we watch the announcements come in from more and more school districts that are closing in support of the Nov. 19th Red for Ed rally at the Indiana Statehouse. Those closed schools now represent over half of the state’s students and teachers. But that still leaves a lot of teachers who work in districts that are staying open with a difficult decision to make; do we take a personal day to attend rally or stay back and teach? I happen to teach in a district that has not decided to close, and it looks unlikely that it will. I’ve talked to quite a few colleagues who are torn between their desire to be at the rally and the sense of guilt, responsibility, even pressure they feel at the thought of taking the day off. Some of my colleagues have asked me to write their story so that those who are going will be able to understand their dilemma. I told them I’d be happy to, so here I am.

There are legitimate reasons why a teacher might feel reluctant to attend the rally even though they fully support the cause. Take my district, for instance. In the last several years, our township citizens have voted twice to support referendums to help our school system stay financially solvent. That’s a big deal in a township that tends to vote pretty overwhelmingly conservative. Teachers have very much appreciated this show of support and good will from our community. As a direct consequence of the most recent referendum, we just ratified a new contract with the largest raise we’ve gotten in many years. For these reasons, I completely understand our district’s reluctance to close our schools on the 19th. From a public relations standpoint, that decision makes perfect sense. So, that is a factor in the backs of the minds of a lot of teachers in my district when we are faced with the decision to take a personal day to attend the rally. We don’t want give the impression that we are ungrateful for all the things our community has done to help us. But as I’ve said before, the Red for Ed movement isn’t about me, it isn’t about my district, it’s much bigger than that.

Some teachers in my district have mentioned that they feel guilty at the thought of taking a personal day and leaving their colleagues behind to cover for them in a school filled with so many substitutes. Others have said they don’t want their classes to be spit and given to other teachers, creating a very stressful burden on them.

I’ve also talked to some very new teachers who are just plain nervous about making waves in their first year. They don’t want to be seen by administration as unreliable or as not being team players. There is great pressure on new teachers to make a good impression on administration.

Other teachers have told me that they just can’t afford to use their personal days. They have family considerations that require them to save those personal days for times when they need to support their children or spouse.

All of these are valid considerations. Each of the teachers I have talked to feels stress about being caught in the middle. They feel pressures to stay back and work but they feel an equal pull to go and support a cause that is so very important to them. I could see in their eyes and hear in their voices that they are upset about it. It’s like they are trapped in a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” scenario. I feel for them.

It was an easy decision for me. I am well-established in my district with a lot of years under my belt. My administration know me well. I also happen to have a student teacher running my classroom right now so my absence on the 19th won’t have nearly as big an impact as it normally would. But the decision is grueling for many of my colleagues for many potential reasons.

They wanted me to let you know why they might not be at the rally. More importantly, they wanted me to let you know that they will be decked out in red that day and their hearts will be with everyone at the Statehouse.

That said, I want to take the opportunity to tag something else on at the end of this piece. Yesterday, I posted an article about the “dirty little secret” involving the excruciating process prospective teachers now have to endure to become licensed. I was overwhelmed by the responses I got from that piece from teachers who echo the horror stories I’ve only just recently begun to hear. I want to share some of those responses with you so that you can get a feel for the scope of impact these licensing tests have had. Please take a moment to read through them. (Note: rather than type them all out, I took the liberty of taking photos of them from my computer screen)

It’s pretty overwhelming when you see that kind of unified response. The general public needs to hear these stories. They need to be armed with this information when they enter the voting booth. Please share these testimonies.

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