The situation in Wisconsin is a frustrating one. I have many friends and classmates from Wisconsin, and they are all in solidarity with the many students, teachers, and supporters of the teachers unions as they protest the bill that Gov. Scott Walker is trying to pass in the Wisconsin Senate.
Granted, I don’t know much about what is going on, and to read up on the events of the past two weeks might mean that the event would be over before I’m able to offer a belated opinion on it. But, from what information I’m gleaning, here’s how I understand what’s going on, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
Wisconsin is in debt. Gov. Walker needs to reduce the debt somehow, so he’s cutting programs and other expenses from the state in order to get out of debt. Part of what is on the chopping block is pay raises for teachers and other unions. The unions, originally a little ticked off, understand that some sacrifices need to be made in order to improve the situation. It was only when they realized that part of the bill is getting rid of the unions ability to collectively bargain that they found a problem. Teachers have been calling in sick in order to protest, and the Democratic state Senators have left the state to prevent a quorum to vote on the bill that many are fairly certain will be rushed through illegally.
What gets confusing is that a lot of news sources are focusing a lot on teachers. It’s a disturbing narrative that a lot of news networks have that say that teachers are greedy, that they only work part time, and that they don’t deserve the money they’re asking for.
Those sorts of conclusions are infuriating. While there are plenty of other unions out there fighting for their right for collective bargaining, the focus is primarily on the teachers, and for good reason. For every Fox News commentator that says the teachers should quit whining and get back to their jobs, I can come up with several reasons for supporting those teachers in their fight for keeping their right to collective bargaining.
Teachers work hard and have to tailor the material to a wide range of learning styles, which range from “picking up things on the first pass” to “I don’t care and won’t learn this no matter how many times you shove it down my throat.” Teachers don’t work part time; the school day ends at 3 PM, but they spend all night grading papers, planning for the next day, trying to figure out ways to get kids interested in the material. Sure, there are some crappy teachers out there, and we should definitely get rid of those teachers. But most of the time, the problem lies in the kids.
No one gets into teaching to be rich, and those who do completly misunderstand the teaching profession. Most people idolize and worship sports heros and movie stars, but if you ask nearly any person on the street who their greatest influence is, they will most likely name a teacher.
The person who motivated me most in school was my AP Literature teacher in high school, Mrs. Copperud. It was senior year, when I was letting myself slump, that she gathered a small group of us together. We were all slumping, and she was disappointed in us. I’ll never forget it; she said, “You four are the pace cars. You’re the ones who should be setting a standard for the rest of the class. You’ve always set a standard, and I don’t know what’s going on now, but I need you to keep setting that standard.”
No anger, no yelling, no giving up. Just straightforward encouragement to succeed. And I credit most, if not all of my success, to that little pep talk.
To those who still think teachers don’t deserve pay raises, and even deserve the elimination of their rights, I encourage you to spend a day in the shoes of a teacher, with constant pressure and antagonism every day, from students, parents, and the administration. If you understood what it is that teachers everywhere go through, I feel that you’d be a little more sympathetic to the cause.
God speed to those teachers in Wisconsin. I truly hope you win everything you deserve, and more.