A Weird Mood of Gratitude and Dissent
It’s the end of the semester! We have made it through the first 17 weeks of school, which somehow have flown by while at the same time seemed creepingly slow these last few weeks. This time of year brings upon emotions of relief and gratitude, as we move into two, glorious weeks of relaxation, one giant perk of the job.
While many in other fields often comment, “oh it must be so nice to be off for two weeks,” it comes as a necessary trade-off for the exorbitant amount of hours that have been put in over the last four months.
This year, DPS teachers sit at an interesting juxtaposition as we are grateful at this time of the year to have our jobs, while at the same time looking at the reality of a teacher’s strike happening in early 2019. We have a responsibility to set an example to our students that while we are dedicated to them and what we do, we have to take an active stand for what we believe is right and fair.
So, I’ve been taking note of what I am grateful for right now, in hopes that in demonstrating to our community that our dissent comes not from a place of spite or resentment towards the career we have all chosen for ourselves, but rather from a place of necessity in order to be the best teacher we can. This requires, like anyone else in any other job, that we can live comfortably and be able to take care of ourselves, our families and our well beings.
...I am so grateful to get to teach what I am passionate about. Even when teenagers at the beginning of my Shakespeare unit don’t seem to get why I geek out so hard about it, I find so much joy in watching their reactions at the end of “Romeo and Juliet” when they are screaming “NOOOO DON’T DO IT!” I still GET to show them that story for the first time they’ve ever learned it. I get to play ‘charades’ with them, and laugh with them at their enthusiastic attempts to get me to guess “frosting a cake.” I get to help them find costumes, learn dance steps and sing with them all spring. As hard as days can I be, it’s helpful to remind myself how much fun we have and how academia looks lighter, looks like playing and is inherently so much more active than other contents.
...I am so grateful for the colleagues I GET to work with, inside DCIS and inside the DPS Theatre Arts cohort. I am inspired and energized by their ideas, by their stories, by their friendship over the years and willingness to share their resources, struggles and celebrations. I love stepping into other colleagues’ classrooms and theatres and soak in their creativity. I love standing in the hallway and debriefing the days’ humourous and heartbreaking moments with my hallmates. I have grown to really feel connected to the people I work with in the recent years, and give them a lot of credit as to why I have stayed at the same school for the past six years. Thinking about working somewhere new and not be sure of this same support is difficult for me to do, even when I think it might be smart of me to go somewhere else.
...I am so grateful for students who want to sit in my office and gossip and rant or just sit and read or do their homework. I am grateful for their families who let them stay and rehearse every day all year long, and support our productions by coming every single night. I am grateful to work in a school where I have seen my students since they were 11 and 12 years old, growing up now to ask me for letters of recommendation for colleges and theatre programs. I am so grateful to have built relationships with students that I am now going to happy hour and lunches with them as they come back and visit me from their respective jobs and colleges. They make me so proud and I love to hear about their challenges and successes as they have moved on with their lives and their passions.
...I also struggle. I struggle alongside my husband, who works as an electrician, as we nervously plan our future financial goals on our two, piecemeal salaries. We both work over time, have added on side hustles so we can stay in Denver, or at least close to, as the cost of living rises and teacher salary stays the same regardless. This relentless schedule of a working parent has challenged me in ways I had never imagined it would, but the thought of not working and possibly putting at us a deeper hardship is nearly impossible for me to presume.
...We struggle when we are budgeting for a potentially growing family, with doctor appointments, grocery bills, plane tickets to visit family, plane tickets to take vacation, doggy daycare, new clothes for a growing kid, gifts for friends and family, items we need for our jobs.
...We struggle with justifying our time away from each other and how much money is worth how much time. Constantly, we question ourselves; do you take the extra side jobs on the weekend? Do I cut out the leadership positions I have taken on and the corresponding compensation in order to be able to pick up my daughter on time from daycare? Do I back away from Drama Club and forgo my stipend so I don’t miss the chance to be able to take my daughter to the library or the park on a weekday? It feels unfair to have to weigh time and money so contentiously with each other.
Please know, I share this not for sympathy, but for a glimpse of reality that teachers in DPS specifically face. I hope to share a message with my students and community, if we do go on strike, that is BECAUSE we want to be consistent forces of positivity and energy for them every day. We want to maintain relationships and stay in our schools and districts, but the compensation conditions currently are pushing us away from doing so to our best ability.