The Labor of Teachers

Aug 31, 2017

In 1894, the United States government created a federal holiday to recognize the economic and social justice achievements of labor, to be held each year on the first Monday in September.  The holiday itself was born out of tumult, following a failed attempt by President Cleveland to break up a railroad strike.  And while many types of work have changed since then, speaking up and fighting for justice remains at the heart of the labor movement.  Nowhere is that more evident than in the education profession, where justice flows from our labor of love and care.

While we worked this summer to prepare for the return of our young scholars, the context of our national dialogue caused us deep concern.  For we live in classrooms filled with rich diversity, and we teach tolerance.  When the hate in speech creates a cacophony that challenges the peace of empathy and love, we can be shocked and speechless in the moment.  And yet, our commitment to our labor movement, our children, and our community oblige us to find our voices to speak against injustice and to do what is right.

For us educators, there is no ambiguity about the dangerous words we heard in Charlottesville. We are clear that the hate we witnessed is destructive to the community we help to create in our classrooms each and every day.  There is no ambiguity.  The labor movement collectively stands to fight oppression, and amplifies the voices of those who cannot be heard.  Rising above the cacophony, labor brings justice through collective action.

And as we pause to honor Labor Day 2017, we recognize our part in the historical context of a much larger movement.  For our labor is one of honor and dignity, as we help the youngest among us find their voice.

Ours is a labor of leadership.  Organizer Marshall Ganz writes, “Leadership is accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve shared purpose in the face of uncertainty.”  Amid uncertain times, we lead in a movement that denounces hate and fear, and cultivates hope and care. We educators must lead in the struggle to fulfill the vision of the labor movement, to build a nation with justice and opportunity for all.

Christopher Lloyd, NBCT

Loving Husband

President, MCEA

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