The Los Angeles Strike: A Teacher’s Perspective

On January 14, Los Angeles teacher and guest blogger Dr. Jakeisha Gibson joined her fellow teachers on strike for smaller class sizes, increased salaries, and the hiring of more nurses and counselors to meet growing student needs. The night before the strike, Jakeisha detailed on her blog the feelings she and her students experienced in response to her leaving the classroom for the picket line.

Read the powerful article Jakeisha wrote the night before going on strike below:

‘Twas the Night Before the Teacher Strike

The teacher union that supports the second largest district in our nation called for a strike at the very beginning of our winter break. There has been a lot of talk about a strike over the last couple months but I never imagined it would actually happen. It’s so hard to understand how anyone would purposely want to starve our schools and not provide the resources that students need.

On my first day back from winter break, I decided to have a discussion with my fifth graders. I’d say two-thirds of the students had heard nothing about a strike. The remaining students knew about the strike and had a couple accurate talking points to share.

I could see the level of anxiety rising with my students as the discussion progressed. I did my best to explain the reasons why teachers are striking. I also explained I’d be outside the school and not allowed to enter campus until the strike ended or I voluntarily decide to return to work.

As a teacher, one of the hardest attitudes to have is, “It’s not my problem or that doesn’t concern me” because I care about my students and I care about what happens to them. I was unable to answer lots of there questions about what their days will look like in my absence. I’m nervous for my well being on the picket line and I am equally nervous for their well being (emotional well being mostly, my students don’t do well with change) while I’m striking.

I entertained all of their questions. Their first questions focused more on logistics like, “Who will teach us?” “Will the school be open?” “Will we have recess?”  Then their questions changed to “Will I be able to have breakfast and lunch?” “How long will you be gone?” “Are you going to get fired?”

I work at a school where lockdowns are not all that unusual. The students know the procedures for what to do. Hearing gunshots is not too hard to fathom either. One student asked, “What if there is a lockdown?” There wasn’t anything I could do for the kids during a lockdown if I’m not on campus and I immediately started to feel helpless. I reminded the kids to do what we practiced but I was quickly corrected, “No, I mean what if there’s a lockdown and you’re outside? What’s going to happen to you?” At this moment, a light bulb went off. The thought of a lockdown during the strike never occurred to me. I don’t know why this never occurred to me since we have lockdowns fairly regularly. I did not know what to tell her. Another student yells, “Drop like a pancake! That’s what they tell us!”

A couple minutes before the dismissal bell on Friday, I reminded my students that I will be on the picket line Monday morning. One student said, “Good luck Dr. G. Remember, we love you and we support you. See you soon.”

When I say no one wants to strike, I truly mean no one wants to strike. I’d much rather be in my classroom with my students. This is the last effort for the district to stop starving our schools.

If we aren’t the voice of the students, who will speak for them? Who will stand up for them? They’re counting on us, their futures depend on us.

This is why I am a teacher on strike until a fair agreement is made.

This article was written by Jakeisha Gibson, a social justice educator who serves the students of South Los Angeles. She is an advocate for STEM education and is currently crowdfunding on to bring technology to her students. Learn more about her classroom needs here or check out her blog here.

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