Teachers are us

I love kids and I love schools and I love the excitement of learning and sharing knowledge and I think teaching can be a rewarding – tough, but rewarding – job. I envy those that do it well. But, and I don’t want this to come off the wrong way, I’m glad I’m not a teacher right now.

This is a difficult time to be a teacher. In addition to working in short-staffed schools with too many kids in a room, there are countless directives and mandates and pressures to teach to one test or another.

Then, elected officials who should be in control of spending and taxes and debt and the rest effectively blame their shortcomings in these areas on teachers and other public employees.

Add that if you work in MPS, you’re now faced with the difficult decision of saying yes or no to a survey about making concessions to save colleagues’ jobs and ease overcrowding in classrooms.

This, after your union made concessions less than a year ago to help achieve the same goal. And this with the knowledge that when the current contract runs out in 2013, you will be without not only a contract, but without the power to negotiate a new one.

As a non-teacher, I would take a moment to remind that teachers are us. They live in Milwaukee (they have no choice on that matter). They have families, they have homes, they have children. They go to Summerfest, they root for the Brewers, they support local businesses. I suspect some of them are your neighbors and I know for a fact that quite of few of them are my neighbors.

“They” are not some sort of “other.”

It’s easy to say in an anonymous talkback that someone else ought to “put children first” or ought to take a pay cut to fund for this or that. It’s less easy to know how we would respond if society was asking us to do the same thing. But society isn’t asking us to do the same thing. Instead, we’re expected to get as much as we can and enjoy it and more power to you.

Unless you’re a teacher.

Police officers patrol our streets and firefighters respond to our emergencies. Those are not abstract concepts to any of us. We all understand their importance.

Teachers educate our children. That’s an abstract concept only perhaps to people without children.

Parents, especially parents with kids in MPS, know these teachers. We get to know some of them really well. We understand that they are not “them” but “us.” We know they work hard. Concessions or not, we know they care about our kids. It is very tangible.

Part of me wishes that the MTEA teachers had said yes to more concessions so that some of the laid off teachers could keep their jobs … for now.  And part of me thinks they’re right to hold on to whatever they can, while they can.

Remember, the district faces another massive cut next year. That means more layoffs. Teachers cannot foot the bill endlessly.

As a society we need to stand up and say education matters. Our children matter. The future matters.

Teachers are already doing right by our kids. Let the politicians show us they can do the same.

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