I don’t know if it was the end of my first full week as a working mom, or the end of the Tacoma Teacher Strike, or something else. But I woke up on Friday and I just knew. It was a day to be #RedforED.
This movement is about the promise of public education. It is about supporting each other--teachers, families, students, and communities--while we do hard things to make this promise a reality. It is about the promise of something better—for our country, and each individual child.
When I woke up on Friday, I just needed to be in it, and I needed to write to tell you why.
A Renewed Energy
In the last year I learned a new meaning to my mantra to do hard things.
I had a more difficult than average pregnancy, and it was HARD to go to work every day. I learned a new world of respect for pregnant ladies everywhere.
I had a more difficult than average recovery, and it was HARD to do… everything. I learned a new universe of respect for new moms, especially the new moms in our country who have to go back to work before their own bodies have healed.
Just as I found my voice to advocate for kids, just as I was catching my stride as a writer, just as I was learning to lead, my body shut down.
This is the first time in a year that I have been physically capable of doing the work I want to do. And it feels so good to be back.
I’m full of energy. I’m #RedforEd.
A Renewed Gratitude
All over Washington this fall, teacher’s unions have stood up to school districts to demand the pay increases which the long-fought McCleary battle intended to provide. Across the country, teacher rallies and strikes have made news throughout the spring and summer. Last week, Time Magazine featured a series on the state of teachers in America, and those stories left me heartbroken. But also grateful.
In Quincy, our teachers and the district reached a contract agreement waaaaaaaaay back in mid-July. Plus I finished my Master’s Degree this spring, which gave me an extra bump on the salary schedule. When I put them together they add up to a whopping 35% raise over last year.
I became a teacher in 2010, in the midst of pay cuts and hiring freezes. It was a time of “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. That mentality has stuck with me. There are so many things to stand up for as a teacher; I never thought to take time to stand up for myself.
I remember vividly the moment in July when I realized what my new salary would be. I was standing at my kitchen counter. My mindset changed in an instant. I stood a little straighter and thought, “Yeah. I am worth that.” I gained a sense of self-respect I never knew I was missing. And I realized teacher pay is a battle worth fighting for.
I’m so thankful to the teachers, in Quincy and around our country, who have taken a stand on this hard thing for me. I’m so glad I work for administrators and a school board who care about our students enough to care about their teachers.
I’m full of gratitude. I’m #RedforEd.
A Renewed Hope
Having a baby right after my year of service as Teacher of the Year left me in a strange dichotomy. Those two experiences are among the best of my life. I’ve never felt so fulfilled, challenged, and inspired.
At the same time, they removed me, physically, from my building and my peers. In the last three years I’ve had three principals, two program directors, and 12 different teaching teammates. My absence, combined with this turnover, left me anxious and lacking direction. I’ve never felt so isolated.
My new colleagues, while new to our department, are natural leaders. They are quick learners, visionary thinkers, and personally invested in our success. Each of them has already solved problems that I have unknowingly been stuck in for years.
This one thing is a little less hard for me, because of them. And what’s more, my students are going to have a better experience this year, because of them.
I’m full of hope. I’m #RedforEd.
A Renewed Purpose
Teachers always talk about the need for our students to have role models they can relate to. I totally identify with that right now. On the farm, it is pretty uncommon for a spouse to have an external career when kids are involved. Farm life is unpredictable and all consuming. I don’t have any footprints to follow.
But I’ve been determined to find a way to do this hard thing. I see the struggle as an investment in my family, as much as a paycheck, a career, or a service to my community.
Until we had a major farm emergency. The day before harvest started, a week before my maternity leave ended. I could hardly separate the trauma of the event from my bigger feelings about being a working mom. I panicked. How am I going to make this work?
Then I listened to Robert Hand accept his title as 2019 Washington State Teacher of the Year. With every sentence, he pulled me back to myself. He reminded me who I am and why I do what I do.
“I’m just here because I work hard. I work hard and I love my kids.”
“I think about my daughter every day that I go to work. I think about what she deserves, and I want that for every kid in my room.”
Mr. Hand’s words tie perfectly into my favorite quote from Martin Luther King Jr.:
“And I said to my little children, I'm going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don't ever want you to forget that there are millions of God's children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don't want you feeling that you are better than they are.
For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.”
I am a mom, a farmer’s wife, and a teacher.
I do hard things.
I’m full of purpose. I’m #RedforEd.