Stories from the Trenches: The Oklahoma Teacher Walkout Pt 2
By Adrian Henington
I have known for a long time that my calling was to be an educator. I can not imagine doing anything else. I remember, like a lot of educators do, people trying to talk me out of my career decision when I was attending college at Oklahoma State University. Luckily, I already had a set of the best mentor teachers around me since the beginning of my teaching journey, that encouraged me to pursue my dream. They even made it possible for me to be debt free after graduation. This was, and will always be one of the biggest blessings I have ever received. I will never be able to come up with the perfect words to try to explain just how grateful I am for them. These mentors being my sister, brother-in-law, and both of his parents all share the passion for education like I do. That right there is a great example of what teachers strive to do everyday. We always try to help out whenever and wherever is needed, we encourage, and we try to help individuals squash any self doubts they might have!
Here I am standing in front of the capitol. I am feeling a wide variety of emotions this morning. Definitely exhausted, yet still filled with so much hope. I'm sad that I'm here, instead of with my 4th grade classroom family. It has now been 10 school days since I've seen my students, and I miss them more and more everyday. I am a 5th year Teacher and have worked for several different districts during my teaching journey. I am so lucky to now be working at Will Rogers Elementary in Stillwater Oklahoma. Our administration has fully supported us throughout this entire ordeal. Every single day teams of dedicated educators from all over the state have been spending not just their contracted work hours, but many of their personal hours here supporting the cause. I have heard both negative and positive opinions coming from outsiders looking in, which is to be expected. One thing I have been trying to make clear to the public is the fact that this is not fun for us. I miss my kids so much, all 80 of them. I miss exploring math with them. I miss reminding them how brilliant and loved they are. I would much rather be in my classroom with them, not at the capitol waiting for a chance to speak to representatives. Waiting for something to magically change.
Our children, deserve so much more than what we are able to offer them. We need change, and we need it now. Unfortunately, this is going to take time and persistence. We need help, we need more people at the capitol that aren't teachers. Keep bringing your family and friends there! Most importantly, we need your help in November when it is time to vote! I have been absolutely blown away by the amount of support and encouragement I have witnessed from different communities for their teachers. From gas cards, food, drinks, and sweet words, we are all so lucky to have people that believe in us, and are willing to stand in our corner during this time. I have even seen food being sent here from different states! People coming together to show compassion for a mutual goal is such a beautiful thing to be a part of!
Every single district I have had a pleasure working for is affected by the lack of funding. It is a sad day when you run out of essential things in your classroom and have to ask for help from parents, local churches, or just using your own money to get these resources for your students. I know I speak for educators everywhere, that we want you to know we are not just concerned about asking for reasonable wages for support staff and ourselves. We want Oklahoma to actually invest in our whole reason for taking this stand...invest in our students, invest in our future. Please.
In closing, today my 4th grade team of teachers invited parents and our students to come hang out with us at the park, simply because we miss them so much. Our teacher hearts got filled to the top when we received our hugs and high fives. I sat there watching them play, and just kept thinking about how worth it they are. How we will continue to do what we can do, and to keep trying to get our voices heard for them alone. It takes big hearts to shape little minds. These hearts do not give up. So please keep encouraging those around you, and remember in November!