Here in Milwaukee, as in many parts of the country, cutbacks in funding are resulting in a large number of teacher layoffs. Milwaukee stands to lose over 400 teachers and 600 support staff. For me this news has prompted me into action. It has struck a blow to my family, friends and to my basic core values.
On a personal level, the news of the layoffs came within days of my son's graduation from high school. His school employs progressive ideas and teaching methods to accommodate a population that may not have succeeded in a traditional school environment. The schools motto and mission is "The school where you can be you" and the focus is on providing a safe accepting environment for youth who have been bullied, misunderstood or just didn't fit in. Gay, Lesbian and Transgender teens are welcomed and provided an environment where they can be safe, both physically and emotionally. For this school in particular it is essential to have staff that is on board with the mission and culture of the school. The three teachers who have been given notice have been exemplary models of this style of education and have made positive impacts on many students' lives. As a survivor, I am greatly impressed by the schools policy of non-violence and especially the way issues are addressed in a non-punitive approach that encourages empathy and positive problem solving. It is my personal belief that if more schools took a similar approach we would see a reduction in violence in our communities.
In the bigger picture, because teachers are being affected nationwide, it is an opportunity to draw attention to the role education plays in the lives of our next generation of adults. It is time to look at the roles that schools and teachers have taken in children's lives in a society where so many children are lacking hope, lacking time with their families who must work long hours just to provide the basic necessities, and where so many of the messages they receive come from a media that cares for nothing but their role as consumers. For many youth school is more that a place to go learn how to pass a standardized test; it is a community. Teachers are more than just someone who stands in the front of the room and spews forth information required by standardized tests; they are mentors, role models and guides through the complex journey of growing up. More humane schools and communities produce more humane citizens; it's time for us to factor in the human element, the personal element when balancing our budget.
Finally I'd like to add that this crisis has prompted me into action, it has given me the opportunity to speak out publicly to use my voice to stand up for something I believe in. As survivors we all know how important this is to our healing process. Many of us were silenced by fear and insecurity for years. To take back our voices our opinions our power of expression is one more step in taking back our lives.
Peace and Blessings,
If you are interested in helping this cause please contact you representatives and tell them to pass the Keep Our Educators Working Act Now!
Iowa Senator Harkin has introduced legislation that would provide $23 billion to financially strapped school districts. In Wisconsin you may Contact Senators Kohl and Feingold and Congressional Representatives to encourage them to fight for the bill's passage.