As I was struggling my way through the 5 and a 1/2 foot snow drift at the end of my driveway this morning, I could not help but be thankful to the county union workers who were out doing their jobs to keep our roads clear and safe. I wasn’t bitter that I had to work up a sweat, I wasn’t angry the snow was packed and heavy to move, and I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself that I had more snow at the end of my driveway than my neighbor did across the street. I simply smiled and was thankful.
It took me nearly two hours to clear the cave, and, during that time, I took the opportunity to reflect more upon the political climate of our fine state of Wisconsin. It upsets me when I hear people argue against unions simply because the non-union people are tax payers. As a public school teacher in Wisconsin, interestingly enough, I pay the same taxes as my neighbors who are non-union workers. My thoughts then led me to many of the former students I have crossed paths with who are now out in the post-high school working world. A good number of those students have chosen to work in the private sector and have made good lives for themselves. As a public school teacher in Wisconsin, interestingly enough, I have helped many of those students and will be helping students tomorrow in my classroom, educating them for private sector jobs.
I chose to become a public school teacher in Wisconsin. My DNA is made up of blue-collar, non-union blood, so I can intellectually appreciate the argument posed by those who support Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. I am the only member of my family involved in a union job. The argument amongst public school educators and unions alike is not about money, it’s about the right to collectively bargain for a healthy, productive working environment. When I chose to become a teacher it wasn’t because of pension or benefits. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know or clearly understand the pension plan or benefits package when I took the job. When I chose to become a teacher, it wasn’t because I saw my dad work so hard, with callouses on his hands and little money in his pocket and no nest egg for his golden years. What my dad chose to do for his life’s work was all I knew. My brother has followed in my father’s footsteps and has done well for himself. He struggles with finding enough work and paying his suppliers like my father did, but has learned from the missteps laid before him and has a good vision of the future. I am proud of my father and brother and, I believe, they respect what I have chosen as my life’s passion.
I became an educator because I love school. I did not miss a day of school from kindergarten through my senior year of high school. Up until I had children, I had never called in sick as an educator. Sure, I took my one personal day a year and welcomed snow days as they would occur. Nevertheless, now at nearly 40 years of age I can honestly say I still love school. I enjoy interacting with my students. I enjoy getting to know them. As challenging as education can be at times, I am passionate about helping young adults find their gift and creativity. Most of all, I encourage my students each and every day to push themselves to share their gifts. My enthusiasm for school is the only reason I decided to invest in a teaching degree and master’s degree.
I am surrounded by colleagues who are in this profession for the same reason I am, the love of school and the desire to help young adults. While there are many teachers in our state fighting for our collective bargaining rights by protesting peacefully at our capital in Madison, there are more who are in the classroom each and every day for the love of school and the love of children. Yes, I did go to Madison with a few of my colleagues in an effort to do my part. Thanks to worker’s rights laid out many years ago, I had the opportunity to take my Saturday and do with it what I pleased. I chose to go to Madison. I am thankful for the teachers who have spent time with my own children helping them to grow and instill that love for school.
I am thankful that, when it comes time for travel to school tomorrow, the county union workers have cleared our roads for all travelers to arrive safely for another day of opportunities. With enthusiasm I look forward to another week of school. Later this week my students will have the opportunity to have a skype session with students in Santa Maria, California discussing persuasive technique. No matter what direction my students decide to take, public sector or private sector, I will educate all of them equally and with the same amount of enthusiasm.