Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rethinking Perceptions

Monday morning I awoke with a pit in my stomach. I hadn't slept well at all the night before. You see, as a public school teacher I am a part of a union and our contract negotiations haven't been going well. Monday morning began the first day of a strike called by our association Tuesday of last week. I'd never done this before.

Driving to the district school where I was scheduled to picket, all sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. We were told that a group of counter-demonstrators were going to be protesting against us across the street. I envisioned rotten tomatoes flying in our general direction, but when I arrived on location, I found it to be a completely different experience.

Parents of children we taught in school had made us all sorts of snacks to get us through the long day ahead. There was even a group of parents and students who made signs and cheered for us. I can't describe how valued that made me feel! People drove by honking and giving us the thumbs up sign. Occasionally, we received other signs as well. It's interesting to see that when you find yourself in a situation like that how vulnerable you feel. There I was with a sign walking alongside a busy street. I felt like a sitting duck.

As a teacher who is dedicated to his students, I really struggled with the concept of a strike. I thought about what it would do to the parents who now had to make other arrangements for their children. I don't want my students to be out of school. I want to be able to teach them and help them grow into the men and women that they were born to be. But, as I considered the issue before me carefully, I came to the conclusion that I had an opportunity to teach them a powerful lesson indeed, by example. There are times in one's life that require you to stand up for yourself and for what you are worth. This is the lesson that I hope I can teach my students outside the classroom.

The kindnesses and the insults we received that first day were all magnified a hundredfold. Occasionally, people driving past would shout out the window, "Get back to work you lazy @#$@s!" or "greedy teachers!" It was then that I was struck with the realization that they had no idea who we were. The people they had yelled at were my colleagues and friends. These were good, hardworking, professional people, who never deserved to hear insults like that.

It made me think. How many times in my own life had I judged other people and their actions without really taking the time to get to know them, or to hear their story? How often have I said unkind words out of ignorance? Too often. It also made me realize that even the smallest acts of kindness, like a smile or a thumbs up can mean a world of difference to those who are facing challenging and extraordinary circumstances.

It's Thursday, early, early morning and the strike goes on. I'm on a journey, being taught as I go, guided as if by an Unseen Hand.

Here are some photos from the day.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Academics Blogs - Blog Top Sites