Lydia Dillon of Little Rock, Ark.is a second-grade teacher in a district where educators are affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA). Last fall, union officials told her to get her marching sneakers ready for a strike.
The cause? Some small rule changes in the district’s staffing arrangement.
But Dillon wasn’t having it.
“Students can’t learn if their teachers don’t come to work,” she said. “When [the NEA] has members support certain stances that are not education related, I have a big issue with this.”
She’s not alone.
Dillon is just one educator who is refusing to walk the picket line, as documented in a recent TeacherDive article. The two main national teachers’ unions, the NEA and American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have been the driving force behind these walkouts. The existence of teachers like Dillon, however, demonstrates that not all public educators agree with the national unions’ priorities.
For one thing, teacher strikes can cause a nightmare for local families, who must sometimes miss a day of work or find childcare on the fly. Worse yet, strikes can mean a day without food for students from impoverished families who rely on their school’s hot lunch or bus program.
Teacher Angela Sheffield of Lafayette, Ind., also worries about the interruption to student learning. She teaches English to seventh-graders at Tecumseh Junior High.
“Our profession is one whose goal is to produce critically thinking, life-long learners,” she said. “When we choose to strike or walk out, we are not being part of that goal; we are hindering it.”
Striking teachers often believe that walking off the job is the only way to get respect for their work in molding tomorrow’s citizens. But as we’ve noted before at Free to Teach, not all educators agree striking is the best way to get R ‘n’ R—or Respect and Reform. That’s why groups like ours exist, to demonstrate that public school teachers are a diverse group, far from the monolith that the out-of-touch NEA and AFT depict.