I heard the words coming from a veteran teacher. A guy with more years in than me. He was the one who alternated between hope and desperation at our union's negotiations. He had been on the line during the strike of 1996. The one that went for five weeks. He regaled those of us on this new picket line with stories about how it was way back then. I taunted him, "Tell us again about the hippie days." He responded by starting up Country Joe's Fish Cheer.
This was the guy who took his union responsibilities seriously, but not enough to keep him from walking inside the school to use the bathroom when he needed. Nature, it would seem took precedence over that line.
Many of my younger colleagues looked to me for inspiration, but in matters of work stoppage I was not the authority. Instead I chose to look to those around me for cues, especially those teachers with two to four years experience for how to conduct myself. They were the ones for whom I went out on strike. Them, and the kids inside the school. And all the kids who will eventually come into the school. And to all those parents who come up to me on the first day of school asking, "Mister Caven, where did all the teachers go?"
Well, they're here. Some of them are new faces, and some of them have been here for a couple years. But I know what they are wondering: What happened to the teachers who were here last year? Some of them have moved on to other schools. Some of them have gone on to other careers. Some have left the teaching profession to take a break. Maybe to raise a family. Maybe to return. Maybe not. Some of them left with no forwarding address.
And then there was this wily veteran, using the bathroom inside and taking his breaks on the picket line seriously. He had done his time in the district, shuffled about as the district will for some positions and schools. Finally, when we were back inside again, we sat down as a staff to talk about our experience. Here's what he said: "Years from now you won't remember how you felt the week before or the week after. You'll remember that you went out on strike, and some people didn't. Then we all went back to work."
Thanks for that taste of the real, hippie man.