Teaching is an act of social justice. That’s what Michael Williams said when he accepted the award for Teacher of the Year here in Montgomery County this year. And among all of the things that teachers do, it is perhaps more important to note who we are, in our hearts. We are advocates for justice. We are not perfect, but we continue to learn, and seek to do right in our communities.
I have to say I am disappointed and discouraged in this moment. For while we as teachers continue to prepare for an engaging and energizing school year for the children entrusted to our care, our honorable state leader has chosen to define us using an archetype of a “union thug.” The simple and plain reality is that a union of educators is made up of educators. There are no elected union leaders who are not teachers. Teaching is first, and associating around issues that matter is part of our collective responsibilities to our profession and to our community.
In Montgomery County, our union members head efforts to eliminate the School to Prison Pipeline, advocate and train in restorative practices, fight for community schools, work with the district to hire a workforce that looks like our children. In a few short weeks, our members will continue the work in classrooms to close opportunity gaps based upon race and class. These are the faces and the work that show who we are – but “teaching thug” doesn’t seem to have the same power of calling our hundreds of elected leaders “union thugs.”
We are in a season of choices, and words matter. These words can heal and uplift and inspire, or they can divide and demean. As teachers, we seek to use the former, and I respectfully ask our governor to do the same. While we may disagree at times, I know the children in our community learn about how to get along by watching and listening to what we do. Maya Angelou’s words continue to resonate, and our community listens,
I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.