32 Replies to “An Oklahoma high school teachers response to the walkout”

  1. If this is the Mrs Peterson at Union High School, she is the same teacher that inspired my sister to get her degree in mathematics and become a high school math teacher just like her

  2. Teachers making a competitive wage is one government program (public education) I think most people, including the most staunch of Libertarians, should be behind.

    It’s always been that one issue that I don’t understand why it’s an issue.

  3. Let’s talk about the Walkout.

    First, at the risk of sounding pompous, let’s talk about me.

    If you know much about my background, you know I was a good student. I have both a bachelors and a masters in mathematics; 4.0 GPA my whole life. And, yet, I’ve spent my adult life hearing how I haven’t lived up to my potential. How I could have done so much more in life. “Why didn’t you go into medicine like both your parents, Rebecka?”

    I didn’t have to go in to teaching because I couldn’t make it elsewhere or because I couldn’t do anything else. I chose teaching because I felt public education empowers, enlightens, and liberates. Everyone has a seat at the table. Everyone gets access to quality learning. Poor? You’re in, baby. Rich? You’re in, too. White? In. Black? In. Hispanic? In. LGBT? In. Nerd? In. Jock? In. Immigration status unknown? In. Boy? In. Girl? In. And girlfriend, you can do math and science just as well as your male counterparts, by the way.

    You. Are. All. In.

    (On a personal note: to me, this felt very much like the faith I subscribe to. I believe we are called to draw one another towards Love in the pursuit of reconciliation. And that Love heals us all.)

    That’s the script—that’s the calling—I chose. One of inclusion. One of love. One where everyone’s in. One that seeks to eliminate marginalization.

    I know sometimes it may seem that I’m the fun sucker who makes you put away your phones and insists your topic of conversation revolve around derivatives or integrals. But here’s the thing: I believe each of you is destined for greatness. And I believe I have a role in preparing you for the path that will lead you to that destination. And just like when I was a student, I take this role incredibly seriously.

    Here’s the other thing: I’m terrified that after spending my adult life nurturing other people’s kids, my own kid will not have that same experience.

    The truth is, I try to live by the philosophy that there is no such thing as other people’s children. I try—daily—to remember that we belong to one another. That we have a responsibility to take care of one another. So, in truth, I have no problem leaving “my” kid every day to be with “others’” kids. Because you’re my kids too. That’s what I call you anytime I talk to someone about you. You’re my kids.

    But what if my other kid—the one I incubated for 40 weeks and 2 days—what if he doesn’t have any teachers who are trained and qualified and passionate and smart? Because they all left to neighboring states that pay $10,000-15,000 more per year. You’ve heard other Oklahoma school officials say it: they are having to consider candidates that years ago would never have gotten a second glance. But now we have to consider pretty much any applicant…because no one is interested in teaching here. We can’t find qualified individuals. We are bleeding out our good teachers. And we’re bleeding fast.

    I can’t raise my kid in a state that doesn’t value education. Our options are either fix this or leave.

    So that’s why—if our state legislatures can’t figure out a plan by April 1—I am walking out on April 2. And I will be out until this state can make the same commitment to my kid that I’ve made to other kids for almost a decade now.

    This is not about giving me a raise. This is about providing a competitive wage so that my kid and YOUR kids all have the best, smartest, most caring individuals on their team as they navigate the waters of childhood through adulthood.

    I’m asking you to stand with us.

    You’re the reason we do what we do.

    And this is no exception.

    All my love,

    Mrs. Peterson

  4. I saw a podcast where they made the argument that because one state has horrible SAT scores the teachers deserve to be paid less. What I thought, and what this letter mentions, is that you NEED to pay teachers more so that you actually have a good supply of teachers to select from so you have competent ones teaching. You need to invest in good teachers before expecting better education. It’s not like by paying incompetent teachers shit wages will make them teach any better. It makes more sense to me to make teaching a desirable job, or at least more desirable that it is now, so you have more educated and trained people competing for the available spots.

  5. It’s insane to see the schools too; 15 American history books for 40 students in a classroom, and half the books are missing whole sections, covers, etc. I’ve never understood how kids are expected to share books they have to take home for homework, but that’s where it’s gotten to.

    My town tried to pass a $40 million bond (I think, it might have been more) to upgrade a few of the schools, but ultimately it failed. This was for a town of approximately 20,000 people. In this case it failed because most of the funds were earmarked to upgrade the high school football stadium so we “could attract the right talent for our teams.” Folks wanted books and roofs that don’t leak and the occasional classroom computer, preferably from after 1995.

    My point is that the educational infrastructure across large swaths of the US is in an active state of collapse, and some places, like Oklahoma, see that as cause to cut funding even further. Building rotted and fell in on itself in a storm? Great, we don’t need insurance for it anymore. Put the kids in one of the other rooms.

    All the folks who work in the public education system in Oklahoma deserve high accolades just for the day to day soul crushing grind they have to endure. It’s hard enough with all the right materials and living wage. They often get neither.

    Source: am an Okie in a little town that’s trying to figure out how to dig out of the hole the state keeps digging deeper.

  6. My wife got out of teaching after a year in Arizona, a year in Michigan, and four in Oklahoma. Moving away from teaching was the best choice we’ve made in a long time. Teachers get treated very poorly by parents, and those in charge, and neither could care less for their well being. Giving them a competitive wage is the bare minimum we as a society can do.

  7. For some clarification I am not Mrs. Peterson, I went to high school where Mrs. Peterson taught but I never had her as a teacher. She was always regarded as one of the best AP Calc AB teacher we had at our school and everyone loved having her as a teacher. I got this picture from a friend off of twitter!

  8. Good on her. I walked out of the profession for good about two years ago because of this. I spent money, time (So much time), and a lot of effort trying to find creative ways to reach my kids. Games, videos, comics, experiments, and activities. Ten years after I started I was making a whopping $2000 more than my original salary due to my county freezing the pay scale. I woke up one day, realized I needed a part time job to make ends meet, said fuck you and changed careers. While I do not miss the politics, being shit upon by parents and administrators, hearing all the jokes about “if you can’t do, teach”, and the stress of the state testing, I do still feel a whole lot for the people who are still hanging in there. Love and respect your education system. If you don’t like it, attack the top. Most teachers are willing to put the effort in to raising your kids, they are just tired from all the bull shit. They should be supported.

  9. I not from the US, so frankly didn’t understand the major context under which this is written, but it is beautiful. Wish every kid could get a passionate teacher as this one.

  10. Mrs. Peterson is a stand up person. My mom and ex-husband we’re both teachers. There’s so much extra work behind the scenes that parents don’t see. Imagine being in a room with 25 or 30 kids everyday, trying to teach them things for 9 months of the year. Year after year. The parents on your ass and administrators who may or more likely may not stand up for their staff.

    I wouldn’t last the first week.

  11. Damn that’s some good writing and she teaches math? After reading that I feel like Mrs Peterson could lead a platoon into battle and they’d follow her without hesitation…ok, maybe the casualty rate would be extremely high because she might not have the tactical experience and what not but my point is that was a very inspiring call to arms, so to speak.

  12. Damn, I had no opinion on this walk out till now. Mrs. Peterson sounds, like one of the good ones. But better competitive pay is not the only thing our teachers need. They need our support too. We need to do our part. A teacher can not teach a child that doesn’t want to learn, one whose parents don’t ask them every day, “What did you learn today?” If the answer to that is, “Nothing”, our response should be why the heck not? I send you up there to learn something. I will come up there and ask the teacher, and if she tells me you did not learn anything because you were not listening, not paying attention, or worse yet disrupting the class, there will be but on a belt. If you send your children to first grade knowing the alphabet small reading and basic math.A teacher can build a rocket scientist. If a teacher has to teach your child how to wipe their own butt, and fight them the whole way. In twelve years your child will be worthless as an adult. Participate in your child’s education, development of good moral standards, and social development and your child will live a better life than you and me. Help Mrs. Peterson and others like her. I know several teacher who have given up on teaching because of the children and lack of support from parents. Make me sad. Go ahead Mrs. Peterson mark up my post I am 62 and still trying to learn. 🙂

  13. Teachers many times spend more hours with children than their parents do. They are the second most important and influential people in a child’s life. They should be paid as much as they are worth which is a lot. We don’t value them as much as we should.

  14. They definitely make a good point, but it’s a wider issue in OK than just teacher pay. Their median household income is ~10k below the national average. It’s not just teachers making 10k less, it’s pretty much everyone.

    Does the state governance need to take a close look at funding for schools? Absolutely, last year they ran shortfalls that meant only opening schools 4 days/week. But it’s just one step of many.

  15. How can people outside of of OK help these teachers leading up to or during the strike?

    Edit: I’m sure teachers will lose paychecks during this strike. Is there a gofundme to help striking teachers pay rent, but groceries, etc.

  16. I spent my entire life in the Oklahoma education system and let me tell you… The importance Oklahoma’s government places on education is basically nonexistent. I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood where significantly more tax money was available for use at my public school and yet we often had no money for paper or ink. Some of the best teachers were poached by private schools willing to pay significantly more. Even though several of these teachers were opposed to the emphasis these private schools placed on religion (especially my high school AP chemistry teacher), many of them took the jobs anyway because they needed the money to feed their freaking kids. Not only that, after I had graduated, my sister was still going to school there and they cancelled the last TWO DAYS of school because they didn’t have the money to keep the lights on. (They’d also recently completed a several million dollar stadium construction project but the emphasis on high school sports is another problem entirely.) I am fully in support of this walkout and I just hope that it succeeds in its intention to get Oklahoma to invest more funding in its teachers and the education of its children.

  17. I left the teaching profession (High school, geometry and calculus) after 1 year because, frankly, it made no sense to work that hard and get paid so little. I went into software engineering and literally doubled my salary with no previous software engineering experience, and I can tell you that teaching high school is at least 5 times harder than software engineering. That’s a damn hard job. Good teachers should be paid like good software engineers.

  18. I’ve lived my whole life in Moore, Oklahoma, 20 minutes from the center of OKC, and while it varies slightly across the state among districts, I think the teachers in my district had it the best, and it still wasn’t very good.

    The median household income per year is about 50k, while the average teacher salary in the metro are anywhere from 30k-45k. Even teachers who have spent 30+ at the same school max out around 55k. A four year bachelor’s degree in teaching can cost up to 80k. Imagine working your ass off and selling your soul to be paid an average of 20$ an hour and go 90 days every year without that job. That’s absolute shit, especially considering there’s plenty of jobs in Oklahoma you can get without a degree that pay that same amount if not higher.

    During high school I felt a strong calling to be a teacher, and knew a handful of people in my class that felt the same way. I eventually opted out for many reasons, among them the terrible pay (I did not attend college and now have a job that pays 20 an hour). Most of the other kids left too, but the ones who didn’t are graduating college this year and I am so worried about their futures but the fact they know and are still going through is admirable. They deserve more.

    It doesn’t take a genius to realize there’s a problem with the amount we pay teachers, not just in Oklahoma but the entire country. I hope this teacher’s letter does a whole lot more than just inspire teachers to go on strike April 2nd.

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