Things I’ve Learned about God from Being a Parent

•July 22, 2018 • 2 Comments

I’ve been a foster parent for 7 years, but have only been a “real” parent for 4 months since we adopted our two daughters. Of course, for a good year now, we’ve felt like our girls were ours, so some of the feelings of being an actual parent instead of a foster parent have crept in gradually. But since the adoption, one of the main differences is that I view everything long-term now. Before, I wouldn’t really let myself think of the future with them, because I didn’t know for sure where they would be. It was like there was a huge barricade blocking my view. I couldn’t see past a few months of their lives.

Now, everything has eternal value. What I teach them about behavior, basic learning, manners, God, …it’s not just for the now but for forever. What I let them do and experience (the good and the not-so-good)…it has eternal value. Therefore, I have to be much more careful and thoughtful about how I parent. God feels that way about us. He has the ultimate eternal perspective, so everything He does for us is for a reason. Not just for now, but also for our future.

Besides all that, as I’ve really let myself feel what a “real” mom feels, I’ve begun to truly see how God must feel about us. Everyone says you really learn about God once you become a parent. It is so true! I thought I had figured that out when I became a foster parent, but I had only scratched the surface. The lessons I’ve learned are so much stronger now. And I’m sure as my girls get older, the lessons will keep coming!

lessons-learned-e1324389749537.jpg

For now, here are some Things I’ve learned about God from being a parent:

  • It makes God feel good when he sees us playing or working well together.
  • It gives God extreme joy to see us having fun together.
  • It pains God to see us in pain, physically or emotionally.
  • It exacerbates God when we try to do something on our own that he knows we can’t do on our own.
  • On the other hand, it makes him swell with pride to see us bravely try something new, especially when we finally succeed.
  • God knows that occasionally we need a time out to think about what we’ve done and where we’re going.
  • He loves it when we rest willingly and then get up refreshed.
  • He also knows that sometimes it’s necessary to force a nap.
  • If he sees us running towards danger, he will do what it takes to stop us even if it means knocking us down.
  • It disappoints him when he prepares something fun and exciting for us and we whine and complain about it instead of enjoy it.
  • But God feels joy when we get excited over and sincerely thank him for something good He has graciously given us.
  • Lastly, it fills God with pride to see us dream big, and then with excitement as we work to carry that dream out. He is our biggest fan and encourager. He is the parent cheering loudly in the stands.

And…things I haven’t learned yet but I’m sure I will when I’m a parent to teenagers…

  • It breaks his heart when we act like we don’t need him.
  • It breaks his heart when we don’t want to be around him.
  • And when we grieve over something he knows is trivial in the long run, he hurts with us but also wants us to trust him when he says that everything will be okay and that our future is bright.

Remember, His perspective is always eternal, and ours is like a small child’s. All we can do is trust our heavenly Father.

Advertisements

The 2018 Oklahoma Primaries: Do Your Research

•June 19, 2018 • Leave a Comment

images.jpg

VOTE in June!!!! I’m yelling at myself too, by the way. I typically haven’t voted in June in the past. Many teachers haven’t, but you better believe that’s changing this year. We all need to get the word out to everyone about who the best candidates are in each party for all offices who will support teachers and make the hard choices needed to move our state in the right direction.

Of course, I’m not implying that the topic of education is the only one that matters. Oklahoma’s government and budget are screwed up in more ways than we can count. But if the walkout in April accomplished anything, it was awareness that education is a long-time neglected issue that needs to be addressed. And it needs to be addressed now while there is still some momentum to make positive changes.

In this post, I’d like to give you some HELPFUL LINKS AND INFORMATION that will hopefully equip you with the tools you need to get informed about your candidates so you can go to the polls in June with an educated decision.

***First, GO TO THIS SITE by the Oklahoma Progressive Network for a SAMPLE BALLOT of sorts. It’s a great first step to see who will be on your ballot and where most of the candidates stand on issues. You just enter your address and party affiliation and you get a list of offices and candidates, most of whom have a drop-down arrow that gives you their stance on issues and a link to the source that gave that information. They also include links to facebook and twitter pages and websites if they have them. (Note: Many of the lower offices like state reps don’t have any information linked.)

 

There are MANY offices to vote for! It will take some work to read about them, but it’s worth it! The site mentioned above gives you mostly positive-sounding information, so you’ll probably want to google the candidates as well to see what else they’ve said and what people say about them. If you’re interested in supporting education, try searching their name with “education” or “teachers.” You can also search for the word on their page for quickly finding any comments about that issue. Beware, many of them at least have some vague reference to education being a priority on their page or sites, but we want more than a bone thrown to us. We want someone who is not afraid to stand up against the old ways and who knows how important it is to fix our messed up educational system.

The GOVERNOR RACE is obviously a big deal and in the forefront of many voters’ minds. Let’s not forget the state reps, but for now, let’s talk candidates for governor.  Aside from the link above, here are a few more links where you can read about the candidates, specifically with education in mind, sprinkled in with some of my opinions.

DXEuwm6VoAANmti.jpg

  • This article from The 74, a non-profit news site that focuses on US education issues,  gives a brief run-down of the candidates’ views on education and the walkout. Frustratingly enough, this article also shows that currently, the top 3 Republican candidates are Lamb, Cornett, and Stitt, all of whom were known for speaking out against the walkout back in April. Don’t be fooled by their back-peddling now. Also, beware of candidates that say they didn’t support HB1010 that provided the raises and extra funds on the grounds that “there’s a better way” to fund education. All of those “better ways,” like auditing more and cleaning up the budget, wouldn’t be enough and would take too long. We need something now. Those things are necessary, too, but did need and still need more.
  • This article from NewsOK has a video as well that shows some of the candidates and their thoughts on the walkout before it happened. For those candidates who were against it and say there was a better way, again let me say that educators and unions exhausted all other ways for 20 years and got nowhere. Sometimes you have to go to extremes to get people’s attention to actually make necessary changes.
  • This article from NewsOK highlights what some of the candidates think on issues including education, same-sex adoption, taxes, and oil and gas.
  • This article from Oklahoma Watch is very similar but has a few different quotes.

The GOVERNOR CANDIDATES:

  • TODD LAMB (R) – Although Todd Lamb seems to genuinely support teachers in the video/article linked above, beware of his track record with the oil and gas companies. He may truly care about teachers, but I believe the way he plans to go about “helping” education would not be much different than the current system. Here’s a good article about his ties to oil and gas. Here’s another post about Todd Lamb by Alberto Morejon, admin of the official teacher walkout Facebook group. Also, in one of the articles linked above, he said the revenue package approved for HB1010 got an F in reform and was disappointed in how the teacher pay raise was signed and passed. I get that we need to do more reform along with those new taxes, but an F? Seriously? From other things I’ve personally heard about Lamb, I will admit that he may be a genuinely good guy, but I think it’s a matter of policy and what the candidates are willing to do to get things done.

LtGovLambPhoto.jpg

  • KEVIN STITT (R) – He may be an “outsider” of politics, being a businessman, but he is also an “insider” of the Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite group. See his own post here. I don’t think he signed the petition Tom Coburn came up with later to renounce the revenue package for HB1010, but if he supports the group, then he has the same ideals and probably supports the petition as well. Here is an article about the Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite group if you’re unfamiliar. In a nutshell, they hate (or at least strongly undervalue) public education, favor oil and gas companies, and want to keep the state in the same old Republican rut of cutting taxes and then having to cut core agencies.

5a500e35b6451.image.jpg

  • MICK CORNETT (R) – Besides the fact that he was openly against the walkout, saying teachers should be in the classrooms and that it wasn’t in the best interest of the kids, my personal opinion is that he is too old-school Republican and too conservative. In this article about where the candidates stand on tax increases, he refused to respond. (Stitt and Lamb both said they pledged to not increase taxes, btw.) Also, in the video linked earlier, he said he did not support the walkout, and in one of the articles, he was vague on if he would have signed HB1010 or not. I feel like he is too entrenched in the Republican political system in our state, which is sadly way too tied to oil and gas, to make the necessary, hard changes. I will say he has done a lot for Oklahoma City and for tourism and businesses in our state. I just don’t know if he’s right for the push we need right now.

mick-cornett.jpg

  • ***GARY JONES (R) – Out of all the Republican candidates, the Republicans in the teacher walkout Facebook group voted with a 60% majority to back Gary Jones. He seems to be a knowledgeable, moderately conservative leader that understands the need for reform in education, the budget, and taxes. Here is a great post about him that includes some good information about where he stands in a lot of areas, especially money. Also, a friend of mine vouched for him as one of her family friends, saying he was a great man. It’s always good to hear from people who know these candidates personally. Sadly, he is not in the top 3 Republican candidates according to the polls.  But it’s not too late to turn that around!

gary-jones-state-auditor-high-res-official-photo.jpg

  • DREW EDMONSON (D) –  One thing I do know is that this guy was at the Walkout most of the time, showing his support. In many of the links above that list all of the candidates, he shows his concern about education, his support for teachers and the walkout, and his willingness to make changes and even raise taxes if needed. Not that anyone wants unnecessary taxes, but obviously if taxes are needed in the end (after the candidate gets into office and really digs and sees what’s going on), you want someone who hasn’t pledged to not raise taxes.

Edmondson-Drew-hands-on-desk-e1498235313582.jpg

  • CONNIE JOHNSON (D) – She is in clear support of education, as well, in a similar way. Of course, if you’re a Republican like me, you’ll want to look into these democratic candidates and their stances on all issues to see how far away they are from your views. As you should for all candidates no matter what party. But as far as education goes, both Democratic candidates are a go.

DKMWLZfUEAA8A9f.jpg

 

***The STATE SENATE AND HOUSE elections are equally important, and research on these candidates should not be neglected. They are the ones who make the day-to-day decisions, voting for and against bills that can help or hurt our state. Here is a great color-coded document to get you started. It was put together by Alberto Morejon, the admin of the official teacher walkout Facebook group. Many people have reached out to him and he’s spent a great deal of time and effort into researching political candidates.  Below is a screenshot of the color-coded key at the top of the Google doc; The House candidates are after the Senate.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 8.42.35 PM.png

Another great website for State Reps is Vote Smart! Here you can enter an incumbent’s name and see how they voted and what they think about issues.

 

As far as LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR candidates, I don’t have a clear-cut person you should support. But here is some information I’ve gathered.

  • Dana Murphy (R) – Here’s a good article about her and her stances. Her page concerns me as it seems to support the oil and gas industry and only has vague mentions of education. However, a teacher on the teacher walkout Facebook group mentioned that she worked part-time for Dana Murphy and has always felt that she is genuine, very supportive of teachers, and understands more about education than the other candidates. This teacher referenced her Flash Point interview you can see here. I’ve also heard several teachers say they would ultimately vote for her because they didn’t want to vote for any other Republican candidate. Lol. (UPDATE: Chesapeake sent out a list to all their employees saying who they are voting for “due to their support of Chesapeake Energy and the oil and gas industry as a whole,” and they put Dana Murphy for Lt. Governor… Not sure if that completely counts her out, but it does make one want to do more research.)
  • Dominique Block (R) – He is for school vouchers (see image below from his page), which many educators are against and see as counterproductive to helping public education. I’ve also heard he wants to lower the drinking age to 18.

35766677_1905652292789587_4578223125065367552_n.jpg

  • Matt Pinnell (R) – The thing that concerns me about this candidate is his strong ties to the Republican party. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Republican, but when our state is so screwed up due to old-school Republican policies, we need someone who can turn that around. That could be a Republican, but I’m worried that someone so formerly involved with those politics may not be as bold to stand up to them as we’d like. However, his experience in politics and business could be good for the position… I’ve also heard that he says we do not have a revenue problem, so might be looking at the old-school approach with him. On the flip side, he is endorsed by Oklahomans for Public Education like Gary Jones is and says we need to put more money into education and get that right because that will also help businesses and the economy.
  • Eddie Fields (R) – I don’t know much about this candidate, but a few different teachers who spoke with him during the walkout said that he was just like the other legislators during the walkout, saying “the money is there, but it is being wasted and misused, and poorly spent, and we need to audit….” (quote from a former teacher, not Eddie Fields). One teacher got the impression that, although his wife is a teacher, he isn’t pro-education in the way we need our lieutenant governor to be. Others even said he was very condescending to them during the walkout, even though others say he is a great guy that they know personally.
  • Anastasia Pittman (D) – She also supports school vouchers. This alone makes a lot of teachers not support her, but I know some who still do. I don’t know much else about her.
  • Anna Dearmore (D) – I haven’t heard anything too bad about her with education, but she does have some strong democratic/liberal views that may bother you if you are Republican.

 

OTHER OFFICES: I can’t tell you who to vote for on all the other State Offices, but if you care about education, here are a few plugs and one candidate you’ll want to avoid.

Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction – Joy Hofmeister (R) did her best to support us in the walkout. I think she’s doing a fine job and will vote for her again. At any rate, some of her Republican opponents are on the extreme right side and would be a step in the wrong direction for public education. However, I’ve also heard that John Cox is a great pro-education candidate on the Democratic side that was there at the walkout every day.

download.jpg

download.jpg

 

Labor Commissioner – Cathy Costello (R) is endorsed by Tom Coburn. Again, being endorsed by Tom Coburn…not a good thing.

35646217_10214665597290897_898134608564977664_n.jpg

Leslie Osborn (R), however, I heard is endorsed by OEA. Of course, some people still have a bad taste in their mouths about OEA and how the walkout ended, but we can at least agree that, in general, they are for teachers and education and what we stand for in this election.

download.jpg

State Auditor – Cindy Byrd – I don’t know much about her, but I do know she is endorsed by Gary Jones and several teachers on the walkout page are voting for her.

***Here is another great list done by Oklahomans for Public Education that can help with some of these other offices. Keep in mind, not having an apple by someone’s name doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t pro-education. It may mean this group just hasn’t heard about them. Definitely a great resource though!

Screen Shot 2018-06-23 at 9.46.41 AM.png

 

So, if you want to do your due diligence as an Oklahoma citizen, here’s your To Do List:

  1. Research your candidates and make the best, most informed decision you can.
  2. Share this post so that others can also educate themselves, and possibly include your personal thoughts (especially if they’re based on fact) on candidates in social media posts. The more information people can get, the better.
  3. VOTE on June 26th and encourage others to do so!

Together we can take back Oklahoma!

***Click the FOLLOW button on the upper right (or “Notify me of new posts via email” at the bottom if on a phone) to get notified about future posts. As things change and move on into November, I’ll do my best to keep you informed.

vote-13.jpg

As the Dust Settles (The Teacher Walkout Aftermath, Part 2)

•April 21, 2018 • 1 Comment

You may write me down in history

with your bitter twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still like dust, I’ll rise.

 

TT39-One-World-Spring-2011-Nate-Williams.jpg

A week after the Oklahoma teacher walkout, everything seems to be settling down around us. And just like in the aftermath of an explosion, as the dust settles, nothing around us looks the way it did. Our perspective has changed. As everyone else seems to be going back to normal, we know things will never be the same.

But, truthfully…I don’t want them to be. I don’t want things to go back to the way they were. And I definitely don’t want to stay in the same emotional rut I’ve been wallowing in and out of for the last several days following the walkout. I want, no, I need to shift my focus and change my stance from hurt, dejected victim to proud, powerful world-changer.

All of these emotions we’ve felt lately (see original post here)? It’s time to turn those feelings into power. It’s time to be like Maya Angelo’s poem and rise up through that dust that is settling around us.

 

  1. No longer will we feel Defeated. Instead, we will be HEROES. We’ve always been heroes. To our students. To our community. It is high time we start accepting the compliments and thank you’s we are getting from students, parents, and the community for fighting for Oklahoma’s children. We did fight fiercely. And we did get a lot accomplished. If anything, a new political awareness and dynamic in our state and even nation was achieved through our heroic fight.

 

  1. No longer will we feel Manipulated. Instead, we will be EDUCATORS. This time, though, instead of teaching youth, we will take our lessons to Oklahoma voters. They need to know what we have learned at the capitol. They need to have their eyes opened to the corruption that goes on over there and in the media. They need to be taught that lies are lies and truth is truth. If we all do our share in staying educated and educating others, we have a chance to win in the long run.

 

  1. No longer will we feel Overlooked. Instead, we will be POWERFUL. Just because most of the legislators don’t seem to give a crap about education and teachers and even students, it doesn’t lesson our worth, or our power. Know that you are important. You matter. Our voice, even as individuals, is powerful. But as a group? We have authority, clout, and influence that those legislators only dream of having. And we will use that influence going into June and November!

15207117_G 2.jpg

 

  1. No longer will we feel Angry. Instead, we will be PROUD, turning all anger into righteous anger, which we will use as fuel to push us into action and motivate us. We will not sit idly by anymore, stewing over injustices. We will make a difference and work to fight against corruption.

 

  1. No longer will we feel Jaded. Instead we will be HOPEFUL for change. We will use our new knowledge, however negative, to lead the way into a new generation of politics. One where education is valued and prioritized as it should be. Together, we can bring change for the future.

 

  1. No longer will we feel Worried. Instead, we will be CONFIDENT. Will teachers leave and could things get worse? They could and it’s possible. We all know that. But do you know what else I know? Teachers are resilient, dedicated, resourceful, noble, and compassionate. It would be foolish to doubt such an upstanding group of people.

 

  1. No longer will we feel Uncertain. Instead, we will be CERTAIN. Certain that the advocacy we continue to do matters, but also certain that the walkout, as it was, is over. And that’s okay. We no longer have to feel like we’re in between, trying to make a decision to continue that waning walkout fight or give up. We have a new fight to embark on. Continuing advocacy in and out of the capitol this session to make sure the legislature doesn’t forget about us and our kids, and then continued advocacy into elections and every year thereafter. We have a new mission. Now let’s embrace it!

challenge_accepted.jpg

 

  1. No longer will we feel Foolish. Instead, we will be WISE. We all have wisdom. Those who have been teaching longer have more wisdom than others. But this is a new kind of wisdom, isn’t it? We have learned so much about the legislature and how to properly advocate for education. Anytime someone does something for the first time, like political advocacy, there will be mistakes. But you learn from those mistakes and do better next time. Besides, most “mistakes” made in the walkout weren’t our fault anyway. It’s time to let our foolish feelings go.

 

  1. No longer will we feel Relieved that the fight is over. Instead, we will be EAGER to fight some more. I don’t know about you, but I miss the political advocacy we experienced while fighting for our students. Yes, they were difficult and exhausting times, but they were also exciting and invigorating. The truth is, though, we don’t have to miss it. We can still fight for our kids while teaching them. I know we’re tired, and I know we are back to our teaching lives filled with no free time, but we need to keep up the fight. Below is a post about continuing advocacy from a good teacher friend, Angel Worth, who is now running for office in the Moore district.
(There are still so many ways to be involved! Follow credible organizations that are reporting from the Capitol. One of my favorites is The Oklahoma Policy Institute. Follow representatives on social media (Collin Walke, Emily Virgin, Mickey Dollens, and Scott Inman are just a few who have posted regular updates). Stay involved in social media groups, and most importantly: CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS. Let them know that out of sight is not out of mind. Email/call on a regular basis (even daily) to continue asking for recurring revenue for education before the end of this legislative session. Just because we’re back in school does not mean we’ve left the Capitol in spirit!)

Here is a link to the Oklahoma Policy Institute where you can get email addresses for your reps and also sign up for email updates on legislation. They also have some really great infographs!

 

  1. This last emotion from the original post is unique because it was a positive emotion to begin with – Passionate. We will continue to be PASSIONATE for our students and for teaching. We will approach our job with a renewed love and driving force that motivates us to get out of bed every morning and make a difference. Our job matters. It matters so much. Even if the legislators don’t think it does. The fact that we are molding and shaping the future generation should fill us with awe and ignite a new passion in us that maybe we haven’t felt in several years or since we began teaching all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. The truth is, we are still that wide-eyed, optimistic, passionate new teacher. He/she is still in there. It’s time to bring that version of you back out into the open. It’s time to show this state exactly what we teachers are made of! Are you with me?

1_H2A8NspS0NVI1bT8TLRKdw.png

 

***Click the FOLLOW button on the upper right (or “Notify me of new posts via email” at the bottom if on a phone) to get notified about future posts. As efforts continue in our state to increase funding and create change in our legislature this June and November, I’ll do my best to keep you informed.

Letter to My Students

•April 15, 2018 • 1 Comment

letter.jpg

First, I want to say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we are coming back to you mostly empty-handed. I’m sorry that these two weeks away didn’t mean much in the long run. We fought hard and we tried our best, but in the end, we were defeated.

I wanted to come back to you victorious and proud. I wanted to be the role model I always strive to be and prove to you that anything is possible when you try your best and stand up for what you believe in. Instead, we’ve proven that power and corruption trump what is right and just. I didn’t want to shatter your innocence and idealism as mine have been shattered. But I also can’t hide the truth from you. I wouldn’t want to. You deserve to know the truth. Maybe now you’ll understand the importance of politics and why we shouldn’t take it for granted. I know I do now.

I also want you to know that I’m worried about you. I’m worried because with not much added funding, class sizes are going to continue to grow and many schools will not get what they need to properly educate you. I also worry about teachers leaving you. Teacher morale is at an all-time low, which basically means our self-esteem, enthusiasm, and spirits have been crushed. I worry about teachers leaving you because they don’t feel the state values what they do or even who they are. I’d be lying if the thought of leaving hadn’t crossed my mind. The thought of coming back here to you defeated was almost too much to bear. But then I realized this sad truth: If all of us leave, then who would be left? Who would be there for you? Who would fight for you?

You deserve to have the best teachers here every day, teaching you what you need to be good, educated citizens that will be involved in the community and won’t let the government bully you around. You deserve to have teachers who love you and care about you and who worry about your well-being and your education, sometimes even more than you do.

You deserve the best, and so I pray that my fears will be proven wrong. I pray that teachers everywhere will pull from the depths of who we are to find the strength to return to you day after day and not leave. And I pray that our movement is not over yet and that more change will happen in the legislature that benefits you. Since you are what this was all about in the first place.

In the meantime…I am here.

The Teacher Walkout Aftermath

•April 13, 2018 • 23 Comments

r960-1f5167b7f9c56c59c14179734acc3f44.jpg

As the official Oklahoma Teacher Walkout ends, many teachers are left heavy with emotions and worried about the consequences. If you asked a teacher how he or she felt about the walkout ending, you’d probably get a mix of answers. In the wake of the teacher walkout, we are feeling everything!

I find that explaining how you feel and why tends to make you feel validated. And teachers need to feel validated right now. So, in an attempt to help people understand, I give you the top 10 emotions Oklahoma teachers are feeling in the Teacher Walkout Aftermath (not in any order).

 

  1. Defeated – This is the #1 emotion right now for most teachers. You may think because OEA and some of the media have said we got most of what we were asking for that we shouldn’t feel this way. Those are lies. The reason we still walked on April 2nd was because we only got 50 million in funding for general education when we’d asked for 200 million after 230 million had been cut over the years. Since the passing of HB 1010 before we walked, the following happened:
  • 50 million of revenue to fund HB1010 was taken away because of the hotel/motel tax.
  • 20 million from the Amazon bill was allocated for education for next year and is recurring.
  • 22 million from the Ball and Dice bill was allocated for education for year 2 and is recurring.
  • There is still no plan in place to step up in years 2 and 3 as OEA had asked to meet the full asking demands.
  • Also, there isn’t enough funding for HB1010 in year 2 as the cigarette tax goes to Healthcare.
  • After Amazon and Ball and Dice, we fought for almost a whole week` and got nothing more.

safe_image.jpg

  1. Manipulated – Boy do we feel this for so many reasons! We first felt this when the legislature passed 1010 and pawned it off as historic and wonderful so that the public would assume we got what we wanted and turn on us if we still walked. Before this passed, we had already gotten some backlash (See my post from 3/15). Luckily, however, after this bill passed, the public saw through this and mostly stuck with us. Second, as mentioned above, OEA and the media have exaggerated what’s really been done for education. This was most likely at first to force teacher and public opinion to change and to end the walkout, and now to save face. Third, many teachers felt unsupported by their administration during the walkout, and even out of those that did feel supported, some started to feel that support deteriorate when pressure was put on the superintendents by OEA and legislators.

 

  1. Overlooked – The first week, the legislators seemed to care a little about our cause, some more than others (See my post earlier in the walkout when we were still trying to be optimistic). This week, they were blatantly waiting us out. Some refused to talk to us or barely gave us the time of day. Some did talk for a while but just gave us the run-around. Others flat out said they weren’t doing anything else for us. The last few days they adjourned early without having discussed any bills to help with education funding. Our presence didn’t matter to them. We didn’t matter to them. We were just insignificant, pesky little ants they knew they wouldn’t have to deal with for long. Being treated like an ant that can easily be squashed will make you feel small and insignificant.

 

  1. Angry – Along with overlooking and undervaluing us, many legislators put off an extremely egotistical vibe. Like they were too good for us and didn’t need to listen to us. After a friend of mine had a not so great conversation with McDougal (after his infamous video went viral), the egotistical legislator actually had the gall to ask my friend if he wanted a picture with him. Seriously? The way they’ve treated and ignored us, all while neglecting our kids, infuriates us. There have been some legislators helping us and rooting for us, but they were few. The only thing that helps is knowing November is coming. We will make sure they pay.

636582734297039299-06.JPG

  1. Jaded – Before all of this, I was ignorant. I didn’t pay close attention to politics. I just went along with things and minded my own business. After these last two weeks, my eyes have been opened to the corruption of our lawmakers and to our screwed up legislative system. I will never take politics lightly again, and I feel like some of my idealistic innocence has been taken from me.

 

  1. Worried – With all of the above feelings, it’s not hard to understand that teacher morale is low, lower than it was before, I think. That low morale is going to lead to more teachers leaving, either to go to another state or to a different profession. They did what they could. They felt they weren’t listened to or valued. Now they can leave with a pure conscience, knowing they tried. Our teacher shortage will get worse and we’ll have to hire more emergency certified “teachers.”

 

  1. Uncertain – Most of us had mixed emotions the last few days of the walkout. With all the negative feedback and information we were getting from our legislators who were unwilling to budge and from our superintendents who wanted us back in school, mixed with our desire to be teaching our kids again, many of us wanted to stay, but we weren’t sure if it would be worth it.

 

  1. Foolish – I know, I know. We did what we could. It was a noble fight. Still…when you fight so strongly for something, saying and feeling like you won’t give up until you win, and then you’re forced to quit…it can leave you feeling foolish. Like, what was the point of us being there all this week? Maybe we should have done things differently. Maybe our tactics weren’t great (which they weren’t as far as OEA’s message continuing to change and the fact that there wasn’t really a clear and simple bill we could fight for that would give us our win).

 

  1. Relieved – I’m not going to lie. There is a little relief in knowing my life will somewhat return back to normal since this walkout has been so physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. I didn’t want it to end this way, but I obviously wanted it to end!

 

  1. Passionate – You know what they say – absence makes the heart grow fonder. Over spring breaks and even Christmas breaks, I’ll be honest…I don’t usually miss my students. Those breaks are needed, for family and for detoxing. This time I truly have missed seeing their faces, even the ornery ones! I think one win of this walkout, for me anyway, is that it has renewed my love for my students and reminded me of the importance of teaching. I know what I do matters, and I truly love what I do. I just hope that passion is enough to combat all the negative feelings.

 

A FEW WINS:

  • We did get a pay raise…at least for now.
  • Although it isn’t much, we did get a little bit of funding for our schools and a little bit of a raise for support staff.
  • We have raised awareness to our state and ourselves how corrupt and misguided our government is. You better believe teachers and other citizens will be way more involved politically with voting and talking to representatives. Future change for the better is still possible.
  • Also, because of this awareness, most if not all of the legislators will now have opponents going into election time.

 

THINGS TO REMEMBER:

  • Stay educated and beware of propaganda with skewed views and misleading or vague wording.
  • Vote in the primaries in June and then again in November. Be sure to research the candidates and vote out the people who proved these last few weeks that they care more about themselves, their jobs, and their party affiliations than the betterment of our state.
  • Please hug a teacher and give them your thanks for fighting so hard for Oklahoma’s kids. We need it right now.

 

***Click the FOLLOW button on the upper right (or “Notify me of new posts via email” at the bottom if on a phone) to get notified about future posts. As efforts continue in our state to increase funding and create change in our legislature this June and November, I’ll do my best to keep you informed.

*** See my Teacher Walkout Aftermath Part 2 post which turns this list around into an empowering pep talk for teachers.

Common Ground: A Note to Oklahoma Legislators Regarding the Teacher Walkout

•April 4, 2018 • 1 Comment

636582734297039299-06 2.JPG

The media and social media have made this out to be teachers versus legislators. I’ve been guilty of having this perspective as well at times. Still, the idealist in me refuses to believe that the legislators who are against teachers’ efforts to restore educational funding are truly against education and Oklahoma children. I have to believe that these legislators actually do value teachers and students and realize the negative consequences of neglecting them. Maybe they don’t realize just how bad it is in Oklahoma schools. Maybe they don’t realize what it actually takes to provide quality education, such as lower class sizes, updated textbooks and supplies, a variety of school programs, and, of course, quality teachers. Or maybe they do know these things and just feel like their hands are tied behind their backs.

I know we’ve flooded your workplace recently and are demanding things some of you feel you simply can’t provide. I know these last few days and weeks have been emotional for you. I want you to know something. We know how you feel.

When you feel like the whole world is painting you out to be the enemy when you know there is much more going on behind the scenes, we get it. When the comments flood social media about teachers being greedy and selfish and how if we don’t like it, we should just leave, it hurts and we feel misunderstood. The injustice of being labeled as something we know we’re not is a source of anxiety, frustration, and emotional hollowness for many of us.

When you’re frustrated because it’s difficult to do your job while we’re overcrowding your workplace, we get it. When our classes are overcrowded, we feel like we can barely do our job and that we aren’t doing it to the best of our ability. The high numbers make it difficult to focus on each student individually, to develop relationships, and to give them what they need.

204.jpg

When you have to deal with our emotional tension and the chaos of our protest and how it affects your job, maybe even your own emotions, we get it. When we deal with disrespectful, unruly, and emotional students, the tension runs high. It’s difficult to not get emotionally involved and to focus on teaching when the chaos is overwhelming.

When you feel you are being asked to create or find funds for education with limited resources and time, we get it. When we are held to high standards on our lessons but have limited time and resources to create those lessons, we feel stressed, pressured, and overwhelmed. We become resourceful and make things happen, but the pressure is constant.

When you feel you’ve done something amazing by passing a bill when you’re never able to agree on anything, but then people tell you it isn’t enough, we get it. When we feel we’re doing an amazing job teaching our students and then we’re evaluated with a very specific evaluation tool that tells us we’re lacking in some gray areas that are difficult for even administrators to grasp, we feel discouraged and sometimes even demoralized.

Marzano+Causal+Teacher+Evaluation+Model.jpg

When you feel you would have to sacrifice certain things you hold dear in order to make room for the funds needed for education, we get it. When we have to cut important units and lessons from our curriculum that we hold dear to our hearts because of other pressing needs, some justified and some not, or because of a lack of funds, it feels like we’re sacrificing a great deal, sometimes even a part of who we are as a good teacher.

But we do it. We make it work. We make the sacrifices. And we keep on doing the job we were called to do.

So you see, we’re not that different after all. Just as we have overcome these obstacles to create miracles in our classrooms, we know you can do the same. We have faith in you. Once we all realize we have common ground and a common goal, we can start working together to make our miracle a reality.

Working-Together.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

The Oklahoma Teacher Walkout – You Have Questions, I Have Opinions

•March 15, 2018 • 3 Comments

I have a confession to make. I am a privileged teacher. You may think I’m trying to be funny. But I’m actually not. I am married to a man who makes a decent amount of money, and I teach in a fairly privileged district. I don’t have to buy a lot of my supplies, I have access to a wealth of technology, and I don’t have to deal with some of the problems poorer districts deal with. Because of this, I’m ashamed to admit, I have been complacent and voluntarily blind to the pressing issue that is now coming to a head.

Teachers aren’t paid enough.

w640-66fe1aba6255c1a8fb04126ce523cf2a.jpg

I knew it. Everyone knew it. But like an animal born in captivity that grows up not knowing there’s any other way, I grew up in Oklahoma, got married, became a teacher in 2006 having never had another career, and I carried on in captivity, not knowing or taking the time to acknowledge that there could be any other way.

I can’t be blind anymore.

So, in the midst of this walkout, I’ve been hearing various comments that have been grating on my nerves. And I feel the need to address them to the best of my ability.

 

  1. Is teacher pay really that bad? First, check out this video which is great at showing the comparison between the salary and benefits of a typical teacher and an average white-collar, college-degree professional, including the disparity of having summers “off.”

Second, let me throw this horrifying fact at you – it is not uncommon for children of Oklahoma teachers to qualify for free or reduced lunches. Let that sink in a minute. What exactly does that mean? It means that many teachers with children are living around the poverty line.

Third, I must say that many of us teachers, including myself, don’t feel the effects of our low salary too much because we have spouses that make enough money to make up for our loss. But what about the teachers who are single or whose spouse doesn’t make much money? They’re the ones often working two jobs just to make ends meet. Or struggling just to pay bills and keep their children fed. Is that fair? That a professional with a degree who often has to take work home from school has to work a second job? Or that these professionals who take care of everyone else’s kids struggle to take care of their own? There is something terribly wrong with that picture. Keep in mind these are people who paid for a degree they had to have to enter this profession and who are most likely still paying back that debt.

Lastly, we have to put up with way too much crap for the pay we get. If it’s not a ton of extra stuff that eats up our precious time like meetings, extra planning, committees, emails, and evaluations, it’s dealing with the defiance, apathy, and disrespect of our students, which has gotten way worse over the years. All this adds up to, “We don’t get paid enough for this.”

99045e47ecf96ea28fa580478528e657.jpg

 

  1. Isn’t passion enough? As we teachers have become more and more educated on the situation, an overwhelming sense of injustice has bloomed and grown and expanded, which leads to feelings of indignation and righteous anger that good old passion simply cannot overcome. Also, that first-year teacher passion generally goes away after the first year. Sure, we are still passionate about teaching and love our kids dearly, but after a year in the trenches, we become jaded, stressed, discouraged, and overwhelmed. That’s when we lose so many would-be good teachers. When passion isn’t enough anymore. Would better pay help? Yes, for the most part. People will deal with a lot of crap if they feel they are being appropriately compensated, mainly because it makes them feel valued. We don’t need tons of money. We just want to feel valued.

 

  1. Didn’t you know what you were getting into when you chose to teach in Oklahoma? Yeah, and you’re lucky we did choose to teach here. What if we’d all decided to move to Texas? Who’d be teaching your kids then? For most of us, Oklahoma is home and we didn’t want to move. We figured we would take the cut and deal with it as so many before us have done. But eventually, the excuse, “This is home,” is not enough for many. We want to teach in Oklahoma. But we need to provide for our families. We shouldn’t have to choose.

 il_340x270.1093414720_rv5i.jpg

  1. But the legislature doesn’t have any bills ready? Why do the walkout now when it may take forever? From what I have gathered about our legislature so far (just watch and read some of the viral posts lately), they don’t give a flying flip about education or the teachers who pour their hearts out for Oklahoma’s kids every day. With all of the community support and attempts at raising teacher pay over the years, if they haven’t done anything yet, they won’t get off their butts and make a move for the future of our state (which is determined largely by the future of our kids) until something huge slams into their faces. Until they see that we are a serious force to be reckoned with. Until they truly realize how crucial teachers are to our present and our future.

 

  1. Isn’t this just about the teachers and not the kids? Why do teachers keep saying they’re not walking out on their kids, but they’re walking out for their kids? Those of us who have stuck it out and are still around are starting to become the minority. Far too many newly graduated teachers are jumping ship and moving to a better-paying state. And even more start out strong in an Oklahoma school, bright-eyed and full of hope, but then become jaded after just a year or two. They thought their passion and hope would be enough. But too often, when they realize that what they’re asked to do and put up with is not worth the compensation they’re getting, they jump ship too and go to a different career that pays better and is less stressful.

Probably the biggest insult recently, though, is the need Oklahoma had recently to hire emergency-certified teachers because of a teacher shortage. These “teachers” are not trained properly, are not prepared, and often don’t last very long in the classroom. So when we say we are walking out for our kids, we mean it. Sure, some of us may stick around for them. But what about all the others who either won’t show up at all, will leave, or won’t be qualified to teach them? Your kids need good, well-prepared, qualified teachers that love and care about them and their education. I’m sorry, but better pay is what’s going to make that happen.

OK-Share-Image.png

  1. Aren’t teachers just excited about a long break? First, let me say that we are not excited. What some people don’t realize is this walkout isn’t all fun and games for us either. We’re putting our paychecks on the line here. If this lasts for a long time, we may not get paid this summer. We won’t just have free days off but may need to add on several days at the end of the year or even work through the summer. And don’t get me started on teachers and summer. Trust me. You don’t want a teacher who hasn’t had a summer off teaching your kids. We need June to detox from all the garbage we deal with, and we need July to get caught up on normal life things that we didn’t have time or energy for during the year.

 The truth is, we’re throwing ourselves out into the deep end, not knowing if a boat will come rescue us, if we’ll have to swim all the way back, or if we’ll drown. This is a huge risk for us, and we feel it. Boy, do we feel it. One of my students commented the other day that you could feel the tension in our school lately. We’re being asked to have our grades finalized before the 2nd, just in case we don’t come back. We’re being asked to make sure we work with our failing kids to get their grades up now instead of them waiting until the last minute, especially seniors who need to pass most of their courses to graduate. The special education teachers are being asked to schedule all of the meetings they would have scheduled the rest of year before the 2nd so that we’re not in violation of federal law in the event we didn’t come back. The administrators are being asked to do non-stop trouble-shooting and problem-solving for the million issues that have come to surface with the walkout, especially if it takes a while, like state testing, school activities, how we’ll make up days if needed, graduation, students’ grades, teacher evaluations, etc. So, no. We are not just sitting back all excited about this vacation. We’re worried, anxious, pressured, and stressed.

 

  1. What about those of us with kids? Do teachers not care about the burden this walkout is going to put on us? More than you know. I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally feel absolutely terrible about the burden this is going to put on parents everywhere. I honestly don’t know what they’ll do. Not go to work? Pay for daycare or other childcare? I don’t know. And I worry about it. I feel bad about it. But isn’t that the point? To make the legislature realize they can’t live without teachers? I think, when you start to wrap your mind around what this teacher walkout truly means, you will realize that this is one of those things that will hurt a great deal before it improves. We have to go through the fire together before we can come out refined and new on the other side. Revolutions are painful and costly. And this walkout is no different.

strike-7b77f0ff.jpg

So, please. Teachers are already stressed because of everything leading up to this walkout. We feel guilty for everyone else affected by it. And we’re worried about the outcome for us and our state. We need your support now more than ever. Thank you, Oklahoma.