Jan Resseger reflects on the excitement of seeing teachers standing up for themselves and for their students and schools. 

They refuse to be pushed around anymore.

The governor of Oklahoma insulted teachers, saying they were like teenagers who wanted a better car. How much is she paid to defend the interests of the oil and gas industry? She even claimed that the state’s teachers were influenced by outside groups, like “antifa,” the black-clothed anti-fascist agitators. Shades of the civil rights movement, when racist governors refused to believe that “their” blacks wanted change.

Resseger writes:

“If you have been watching the courageous teachers, first in West Virginia, now in Oklahoma and Kentucky, standing up for their right to be paid fairly—to have a pension after long years of working with children and adolescents—to work in schools adequately supplied with enough counselors and social workers, technology and an ample and stimulating curriculum—I wonder if, like me, you find it refreshing to see a large number of teachers out in the open speaking about what they do. In these days of too many guns, teachers are more and more safely locked into schools with the children they teach. They and their contributions are pretty much invisible to the rest of us. We forget about them and we take them for granted.

“We neglect to make any mental connection to what it means for teachers (and children) when politicians promise us we can grow the economy by slashing taxes. Teachers, however, have to pay attention when ballooning class sizes make it harder to address personally the needs of 35 or 40 children. They watch kids grieve when football or instrumental music or a high school newspaper dies. They notice when there are too few counselors to help students whose parents are not college educated put together a good college application. They know the consequences when their rural school lacks access to broadband. Better than anybody else, school teachers understand the meaning of cuts to the state education budget. And this month teachers have been creating opportunities to tell us all what they know.

“Maybe part of our forgetting about teachers comes from gender bias. As we have all noticed in West Virginia last month, and now in Oklahoma and Kentucky, most of these teachers are energetic young women. All the old messages come into play: Teachers do their work because they love our children; the money isn’t so important to them. They’re probably married and have another income to depend on in addition to whatever they can bring in from teaching. These women should be good sports as they do more with less. And the worst: Teaching is really just glorified babysitting.

“Teachers do love to work with our children, but at the same time their work is the job by which they must support their own children. They must pay for food, housing, a car, and childcare. The required contribution to the family’s’ health insurance keeps rising. They have to save for their children’s college, and they need to save for retirement, particularly when the pensions they pay into every month are cut.”