by Brian Washington
Still riding high on the momentum of the teacher “walk-ins” that were successfully launched recently throughout the state, North Carolina educators are vowing to keep the conversations going with parents, community members, and elected leaders about bolstering the profession and doing what’s best for students.
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On Monday, November 4, educators took a form of protest, commonly known as the “walk-out,” and cleverly flipped it on its head. Instead, they held a “walk-in” at various elementary, middle, and high schools statewide. The campaign was organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), which represents teachers and education support professionals throughout the state.
At the elementary school in Holly Springs, where Stacey Fraley works as a media specialist, a crowd of about 120 people wearing red—including parents, children, students, elected officials, and other supporters—held a small march outside the school and, in a show of solidarity, walked arm-and-arm inside to begin the school day and a conversation about the challenges students and educators are facing as a result of bad legislation passed by state lawmakers.
“We came together to talk about their kids, our students,” said Fraley, who works at Holly Ridge Elementary. “They had been hearing a lot of things on the news, but not from us. This gave them (parents, community and elected leaders) a chance to hear first-hand from their children’s teachers and find out ways in which they can work with us.”
Educators are asking supporters to contact their state representatives and let them know they are not pleased about what is happening in our public schools. Governor Pat McCrory and state lawmakers have abandoned students, who are losing good teachers because educators can’t afford to teach in North Carolina. State lawmakers have refused to provide educators with a pay increase on the state salary schedule and have eliminated extra pay for those teachers who gain advanced, education-related degrees to better serve students.
“Experienced educators are continually leaving the profession because they can’t make enough money here,” said Fraley, who says she’s heard of educators moving to states like Virginia, South Carolina, and Ohio to continue doing what they love, helping children succeed in the classroom. “I think it’s a lack of respect by our state government for teachers.”
However, Fraley adds the walk-ins were also designed to draw attention to the state’s heavy reliance on high-stakes testing and its impact on students.
People are making decisions for schools that have never been in the classroom or haven’t been in a very long time. So if we can somehow get them to see the impact—kids who are crying because they have to take yet another test, that there is no time for anything fun when it comes to learning, or that we are continuing to lose good teachers because of ever-increasing demands and a lack of resources—maybe they will feel differently.
For American Education Week, which runs from November 18-22, North Carolina educators will again invite parents as well as elected and community leaders into the schools, but this time to take a more “hands-on” approach. This time, those who attend will be asked to walk in the shoes of an educator by helping to proctor a test, work a lunch duty, or assist with a reading group. Once again, the hope is that experiencing what goes on inside our local schools will spur folks to take action to seek real, lasting, and positive change. It all depends on community stakeholders working together.
“Once again, we want them to see what’s going on and encourage parents and community members to contact their local representatives and let them know that you are not happy with the situation.”