Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Strike

I belong to a couple of groups on Facebook that are for alumni of the elementary school and middle school I went to. Recently people have been reminiscing and the subject of "The Teacher's Strike" came up and it got me thinking.

Before I go any further let me say that there were two teacher's strikes while I was a student in this district. One was when I was in fourth grade, the other was when I was in sixth grade. At least one of them lasted a couple of weeks. The one in fourth grade included the first day of school: my first day of school in a new school and a new town. These things may color my perceptions some.

I also want to make it clear that I have no idea what the contractual dispute was about. I do not know if the teacher's were being reasonable or not.

But here is what I do know. During one of the strikes a teacher spit at a child (kindergarten I believe) who was crossing the picket line by going to school. During one of the strikes as remembered by someone on the Facebook group, the teachers would hit the side of the bus (filled with their students) as it crossed the picket line. After the second strike my sixth grade homeroom teacher had to spend several days in jail for being one of the leaders and defying a court order to return to work.

I didn't know what the strikes were about and I didn't care. I knew that the teachers, the people we were supposed to respect, were breaking the law and were being mean. How are you really supposed to command respect of the students in your class if they first see you being abusive toward them?

Remember, students who crossed the picket line were not doing it because they wanted to. It was because their parents still sent them to school. (We had half days, with substitutes and probably learned absolutely nothing.) Most students, if given a choice, would gladly have stayed home and enjoyed an extended vacation.

So maybe the teachers were really directing their abuse at the parents? Not really any better from the young student's point of view.

I respect worker's rights to dispute contracts. I respect that often a strike is the most effective way to make changes.

But I did not respect teachers that behaved that way toward elementary school students.

Was their cause right or wrong? Honestly, I have no idea. But their behavior was wrong and that's the lasting impression that was made on me.

There's a life lesson there. Even if your cause is just and worthy, you can still undermine it by spitting at the kindergarten student.

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