I Dream of a Million Teacher March

Thank you for your kind words, your gift cards for coffee, your mugs, and thank you for your art. Teacher Appreciation Week had a way of making me feel both grateful for the purpose-driven undercurrent of our noble profession, and longing for a day when educators across the nation come together in solidarity and support. While the teacher narrative has been difficult lately, I dream of New York teachers looking after our teacher brethren in Chicago, in Atlanta, in Washington DC, all over Florida, and all across the country. 

I dream of a million teacher march, and we should ask for more than post-it notes, stickers, and index cards. Our wish list is political; we can be a powerful force for change even while we inspire children to be the change. We want more than a comedy on ABC—exceptional as it is; we want a march on Washington DC that is going to muster the respect and the love we deserve. I want to lock arms with teacher pals all over the country, and I want us to galvanize one another, and to raise our voices well past voice level 5. We need to share resources, book sets, and most importantly, we need a shared resolve.

I think the reasons for marching are many and the issues facing education world are numerous. This op-ed will not do justice to the concentric circles of chaos we call a job description. 

These are just some of the things teachers carry: we are leaving the profession in droves. We are depressed, overwhelmed, and frustrated. We lack support and agency. We know what works for the children in our care, but sometimes it feels like we’re the only people who care. We are bearing one another’s burdens, and like dominoes, we are all falling down. 

While teacher life is difficult, our students are suffering more. Our sons come to class with dad-shaped holes, our daughters are raising their siblings, our students are criminalized, policed, and suspended; our students are filling out mindless packets, studying their colonizers, and getting ready for either cubicle land or prison. 70 percent of girls of color in a classroom have adverse childhood experiences. Students are not learning anything via Zoom, and they are longing for socialization. My nephew asked his friend via Zoom: “Remember that time we had popcorn together?” Students come to class for love more than anything else, and teachers are lolling like empty piñatas because we’re pouring from an empty cup. 

Teachers need to be like coals of fire: together we glow, but separate, we grow cold. I have the utmost respect for teachers who are leaving the profession; the entire world is justifying the flight, and I wish you prosperity and fulfillment. But I’m going to stick around, and I know there are other like-hearted educators out there. I know they are ready to come together to both lift up a standard against the issues assailing the walls of the profession, and standing in the gap for the students who desperately need us. 

Your homework is to persevere, to finish strong, to be the teacher you were when you first began, to pace yourself so you don’t burn out, and to spend the summer mobilizing with other educators across the country, to march for a better future.