My First Letter to Oklahoma Legislators
Instead of joining educators at Oklahoma’s state capitol Thursday, I composed a letter to my local officials, for the first time. It took me much longer than I care to admit, and was sent late last night to my district senator and representative. As I reread it, my editing brain was wishing I would’ve started writing the letter before yesterday to give myself more time to polish it. Ha! Oh, and the next time educators invade the capitol, I plan to be there.
Today, the proposed state budget passed. From what I understand, meeting after the normal session could have produced a less detrimental budget, regardless of the extra money it would have cost taxpayers. But, it is what it is, for now anyway.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that our upcoming presidential election is truly the most ridiculous and infuriating political show I’ve ever seen. I’ve also realized that I need to get my butt in gear and make better efforts to educate myself about my local government and get involved in the process. Maybe, just maybe, I can have a voice in my state.
Here’s the body of what I emailed last night.
My name is Amanda and I just finished my 10th year of teaching middle schoolers. The entire 10 years have been a struggle, but this year has been the one in which we educators have felt enough is enough.
Due to budget cuts, I had to leave my current position because all core reading classes at my school were eliminated~~reading classes where I taught reading comprehension strategies and skills that students need in order to be successful in EVERY class and EVERY subject.
Additionally, my team of teachers who worked extremely well together has been completely dismantled. When a group of teachers can collaborate successfully together, the students benefit, the teachers benefit, the administration benefits, and the parents benefit~~what happened to “Don’t mess with success“?
Below is a snapshot of a letter that one of my sixth graders wrote to our principal last Friday, the last day of school. My principal shared it with me and the other teacher mentioned, and now I’m sharing it with you. I’ll let her words speak for themselves.
Thankfully, my principal recommended me to another principal in the district, so I do have a job for next year; however, I know great teachers who don’t. And that’s unacceptable.
I don’t know all of the inner workings of the government and politics, but I’m trying to learn and listen to people who know. I can’t tell you how to do your job any more than you can tell me how to do mine. But, your decisions do affect my job, my livelihood, my co-workers, and my students. So, please listen to educators and encourage your colleagues to listen. REALLY listen.
We cannot take any more cuts. Period. I’m in debt because my paycheck only goes so far and things tend to break. Like, hot water heaters, fan motors on the air conditioner, car stuff. I drive an ’02 Honda Civic with an oil leak, a beat-up back end and 207,000 miles on the odometer. I live in a 950-square-foot house built in 1946. I don’t subscribe to cable or Netflix because that’s an unnecessary expense that I can’t afford. I wish my college degree would pay off more than I paid in.
I’m not trying to lay out a sob story for you, I’m just being honest and trying to do what we teachers teach our students to do: think critically, problem solve, fight for what is just, contribute to society instead of sucking it dry, and be a person of integrity.
So, that’s what I’m asking of you. Please use your political power to do what’s right for all of us. Do not pass the budget as it is. Rework it. Use the rainy day funds to calm this storm for our state. Or please explain to me why that wouldn’t be a good idea. I’m teachable!
One other item I’d like to address: We do NOT need standardized testing companies making profits off of our kids. We do NOT need to spend millions of dollars on standardized tests. These tests do NOT facilitate learning, nor do they assess and measure all types of learning. They steal ridiculous amounts of instruction time and cause unnecessary stress. For what? We teachers can’t look at the tests to see where our students had trouble. The students can’t even see what items they missed in order to figure out what they’re not understanding. Don’t you think eliminating standardized tests would make more sense than eliminating teachers?
Thank you for your time and service! Have a blessed day.
I’m sharing this in order to encourage those of you who have been like me for way too long. We are disconnected from those who are making decisions for us. We take for granted that those decisions will be right and will allow us to go about our daily grind as usual. But, I realize I have to take more responsibility for what’s going on in my state. I can’t allow myself to be disengaged any longer with my go-to excuse, “I don’t like politics.” (I really don’t, though.)
I’m tired of sitting on the sideline and just accepting that nobody’s going to listen to me. That the powers that be are going to do what they want and we just have to roll with it, make the best of it, etc.
Though, I do believe these mottos have their places, I’m tired of teachers (and others) cowering and feeling defeated because they’re afraid of losing their jobs if they stir up trouble. Irony glares at us when we teach our students to think critically and to actively spark positive changes in their worlds while teachers walk on eggshells and jump through illogical hoops in order to appease mandates that only hinder the learning process. ARRGGGG!!! It makes me feel like a hypocrite!
But, I’m encouraged.
Educators are running for state offices!
I’ve connected with a group of Oklahomans who are, like me, absolutely fed up and ready to do something about it. Finally!! Check it out if you are so inclined.
Thanks for taking the time to read my “writes”! It’s late and my eyes are crossing. G’nite.