Our potential strike is about meeting the diverse needs of our very diverse students.
By Noriko Nakada, Emerson Middle School
Like most fall weekends, this past one was busy. There was a Friday night festival at my child’s school, there was a homecoming football game, there were soccer games and birthday parties.
But this weekend was not like all the others, because I’m an LAUSD public school teacher, and like every other year, I had many papers to grade and many students on my mind as I made my way through the weekend, but unlike other years, this year held an added stress. All weekend I carried the weight of a looming work stoppage and very public contract negotiations that put my colleagues and me in the crosshairs of public conversation on the sidelines of sporting events or gathered around a table waiting for the cake to come out.
And in all of my interactions this weekend, I had to gauge, fairly quickly, where friends, old and new, stood when it came to public education. What did they already think about our public schools and what were they willing to learn? Did they ask me about what was happening with the teacher strike? Did they want to hear my perspective? Or, did they know nothing about this issue, because their kid goes to a charter, or a private school, or they don’t have kids, or upon hearing I teach in a public school they want to explain to me why community public schools just don’t work?
I wish I could come up with an answer for everyone; a simple statement that could reveal all of the complexities within the current battle for Los Angeles public schools, because that is what is happening. Teachers are going to bat for schools because reasonable class sizes, teacher librarians, nurses, counselors, and other support staff help our students develop academically and as people, and that is what our students deserve.
LA’s public schools serve all of our students. Not just the ones who can afford to attend, or the ones who get in by lottery, or the ones whose families choose us. No. Public schools teach everyone: the gifted and the struggling. The rich and the poor. The native English speakers and the new arrivals. And because our schools are such complex places, the reality is, there is too much to tell.
There is too much misinformation to un- teach about our schools. No, our schools are not failing. Yes, there are struggling schools and struggling teachers, struggling students and struggling communities, but in every single one of our schools, there are educators working hard under worsening teaching conditions. There are kids showing up to learn every single day. There are families, worried about how their kids are doing, worried if their child is being seen within swelling class sizes, worried about what to do if teachers go out on strike.
Many people think this strike is about a 6% raise (because this is what media outlets are touting), but what I keep insisting when people ask what we’re striking for, is this:
People don’t strike for 6%; we strike for justice.
We strike for just teaching and learning conditions.
We strike for smaller classes (and yes, that charter school that shares our campus may have to find a different space if public school class sizes are lowered).
We strike for fully staffed libraries, and nurses on every campus every day.
We strike for the schools our students deserve, and because we want to be able to meet the very diverse needs of our very diverse students.
This is about the heart and soul of public education.
That is why I will strike.
This piece originally appeared on womenwhosubmitlit.org. Women Who Submit empowers women and nonbinary writers to submit their work for publication.