“School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.”
– Ivan Illich
I was hyped on the strike and walk out for multiple reasons. The teachers at my school wanted to meet up at the local bar after school and decide our response. It was interesting and intriguing listening to my coworkers discuss an alliance with the movement. I just felt like, whatever was going to make the most change, I was down with. It seemed like most everyone else felt the same.
So it was set, we would “strike” with the rest of the teachers being organized by the Arizona Educators United and the Arizona Educators Association and we had a spokesperson that told admin, who was very supportive.
It became a 3 day week! And I love those. I mean a 3 day weekend political party would kill, but I’ll take all the holidays and breaks and strikes I can get. So we left Wednesday and I thought we would be back Monday, though I had my fingers crossed.
I grabbed my bike from out of the shed just before 10 and rode down to the capitol. I brought a backpack with a microphone and a speaker just in case it came in handy. Downtown there were red shirts all over. Usually in packs, sometimes just a few together, and everyone was still headed to chase field or were walking west. I met up with the march at 3rd street and Washington. I was able to get a signal so I live streamed. Check it if you haven’t.
It was insane. So many people. Conservative estimates were at about 50,000. I rode down with everyone, jumping off of my bike at some point and showing my sign which read “Defend Education / De-fund the Military.” Somehow spaced bringing my bike lock, but I just trusted it to a group of retired teachers so I could walk around without it. It was so packed. Hard to walk around with a backpack. Saw some friends, a few of my co-teachers, and so many more people.
The most motivating and fun part of it was definitely the band. Assembled of music teachers from all over the state, they all seemed to work and play together well. Here’s some video though it is from the following Monday.
I had brought my “1 Isn’t Even A Number” Math Zine in hopes of sharing it with fellow math teachers, to network and open up about materials and such. It was harder than I thought to get anyone interested. A few math teachers here and there were receptive, but overall it felt like everyone was into their own click, er.. I mean school. Which makes sense, I just figured we could use this space to network and share a bit. I did get a few people that were not into math at all. At a teacher rally! I started to feel like we were all insects specialized into our own areas of content and not interested in what else is being taught. If that’s the case, why teach anything?! I get it when people do not like a genre of music, but when teachers do not like a subject of school, it makes me wonder why the students should care. Would it be fine for me, a math teacher to say, “Nah, I’m not into History or Science.” This was just a few little experiences I had, but it really made me question what is being taught and why (though of course, I am always asking that).
When my homies invited me to go the Vegas Friday for the night, I was already about it. Seldom do I get a Friday off, and to go party it up in Vegas for the night sounded like a great idea. They were already going to get some equipment and stay the night and I was able to just tag along. I was finishing beers before the school day was over. The official biz was handled quick and we headed to the hotel and then down to the old strip, on Fremont street. A few digital card games, a little bit of Roulette, drinks, some dinner, more drinks, some random ins and outs in alleys and bars and we wound up on a craps table at El Cortez.
I feel like I’m pretty good at craps, but not today. I couldnt throw shit. Usually I have a little luck on the tables and I was up and down a bit, but in the end blew through 20 Lincolns by 2am. No one was doing that great. Its always an energy with craps. Still loads of fun, though I’m sure more fun if I had walked away with a bunch of chips. We made it back to the hotel room by about 430 which is way past my school system bedtime. Up in the morn and we were back home early afternoon. I had planned to catch Blackalicious that night at the Van Buren but wasn’t up for it at the last minute.
Spent some of Sunday cleaning house and playing with golf carts. Before we left for Vegas I was trying to get people interested in doing a Teach-In at the Capitol or an Open Mic, or something/anything really, but could get barely anyone interested when posting in the group forums.
I brought the mobile sound system and microphone anyway and just figured if the vibe was right I would try it. I know Catalyst was up there so I hit him up to see if he wanted to do it with me. He was down, so we turned the speaker on and wrote a few signs on dry erase boards and walked around and encouraged people to come up and participate in a Teacher Open Mic. We were hoping and modeling so that teachers would share their stories or poems or complaints or whatever. We tried right by the war memorial but were kicked out right as we got started. We hunted down a better space and found some other active vocal teachers to set up with.
It started out really powerful and could have developed, though after the other 2 guys shared and then me and Catalyst shared, no one else would come up. Some were definitely listening, but not willing to share. It was like we were at a festival but on the wrong drugs. Though, we did make it work for a bit, and it was pretty rad, I was just hoping for more (but when am I not). Check out the cool radio show Catalyst did about the protest. I have some words on it too.
Foul Ball Radio Show at RedForEd Protest
For Tuesday I decided to set up a small Geometry workshop, since I am teaching Geometry right now, it was a gorgeous 76 degrees out, I had a space to do it at (the Roosevelt Triangle), and I wanted to address the people that wanted to still learn (cause there were some grumbles in some online places). I had 2 people show up, but again, it was an experiment, and good practice for me. Also, I like the idea of being out of the classroom, of bringing learning to the street, the sidewalk, the park, or wherever.
What was exciting about Wednesday is that everyone thought that the teachers were going back Thursday. The unions had said that if the legislature signs the bill, that we would. It was announced that we would go back and then the legislackers stalled on signing it. It started to feel like the teachers got nothing and were going back anyway. My kids school called at 1:30 and said they were going back. You could see in the online forums that there was question. Teachers were not feeling going back if it didnt get signed. It really felt that the people in the movement made this call and cancelled Thursday. That was one of the most exciting moments. My kids school called back at 4 and said that there would not be school that day. That was kinda funny too.
Teachers had been sitting in on the legislators meeting for days and this meeting was going late into the night. With lawmakers like Sylvia Allen and Kelly Townsend, the legislature sounds like an evil joke made by rich kids to structurally oppress everyone else. The junk these guys are pushing behind closed doors in the middle of the night is crazy.
Anyway, they signed the bill which gave the redfored movement most of one of its 10 demands. It was still epic, it was historic, and some traction was made. Many people got to see the political process. Lots of people have become more political, and maybe some teachers are gonna get some raises.
I asked the next day in a AEU forum what articles people thought were good and represented the movement well, and what were they sharing with students. Within seconds, I got called a troll. I rephrased my post to exclude the idea of talking with students and I got called a troll again.
As cool as the movement was/is and much as I am down with redfored’s demands, I have been more and more turned off by the culture of schooling and teachers. I mean, I’ve been in the classroom for 3 years now (plus 3 as a sub) and as much as I like sharing space with students and helping solve and understand life and reality and mathematics, it just feels less and less inspiring. Its got me reading more critiques of compulsory schooling and seeking alternatives.