Boo is a man who knows what he likes and what he does not like. The things he likes are pretty simple: sleeping in on Saturday morning while mom tickles his toes and tries to lure him out from under the covers, hanging out at St. Kate’s with his wonderful PCA, A, french fries, almost any form of transportation, and school. There are few things he actively dislikes, but one thing is he really hates is having his routine tinkered with. In his world, things should happen when they are supposed to happen. Period. It is our great fortune that Boo has loved school since he began ECSE in 2004. He climbed on that big yellow school bus and never looked back. He loves riding the bus, his teachers, swimming in the pool, making messes in the cooking room, choir, working in the work room, and seeing his friends. So, how do I explain to him that on Tuesday of next week this all may come to a screeching halt? Boo Bears are not particularly politically astute, and I doubt that he can understand or appreciate it if the St. Paul public school teachers go on strike.
In a former life time I was a teacher, and I was passionate about my work of shaping young lives. I also felt grossly overworked, underpaid and unappreciated. I do not blame the teachers of St. Paul if they go on strike. They have not had a raise in eons. Their classes are overcrowded, there is not enough staff to meet the needs of their students and they feel that their voices are not being heard. If they go on strike,it is because they feel forced to take desperate measures. The teachers I have talked to do not want to strike. They do not want to leave their students, but they also feel that change is critical and things cannot continue as they are. Negotiations will continue today and through the weekend. All students will report to school today and Monday. If a resolution is not met by Monday at midnight, these teachers, these loving, passionate teachers, will go on strike. It is heartbreaking all the way around, but I do not blame them if they make this move. I can only pray that administration higher up the food chain can help them come to a peaceful, equitable solution.
So, what does this mean for our kids? Well, it could be worse. Schools will still be open to give out free breakfast and lunch so no one will go hungry. The YMCA has opened its doors to youth have somewhere to go during the day. There will be some areas open for childcare for grades K-5. It seems the community is rallying to help our students, or at least most of them. Aside from free breakfast and lunch, there are no activities or centers open for students with special needs. I can only guess that their needs are too great for non trained staff, and someone like Boo is too great a flight risk. I get it, but this is hard. He has nowhere to go during the day, nowhere to meet his friends, no teachers to look to for reassurance that his world has not gotten too crazy.
In a way, Robert and I are lucky. His work site is making everyone take a furlough in February and he was able to choose the week he would be off. Wisely, he chose next week. So, if the teachers, bless them, do walk out, Boo will be safe at home with his dad. He may not be utterly thrilled about it, but there are worse things in the world than hanging out with one’s dad. They can ride the green line, go to the mall, go swimming, or if the weather permits, take long walks. I worry about Boo’s classmates whose parents may have to scramble to childcare or risk losing their jobs if they have to stay at home with their child. I worry about the teachers of our district who are facing some heart wrenching decisions. I worry about our federal government which just shut down for the second time this year. Right now Boo is not worried. He is happily curled up in his loft asleep under the weighted blanket his Aunt Janet lovingly made for him. In a few hours, his daddy will tickle his toes, coax his sleepy body out of bed and get him ready for school. He may grumble slightly about leaving his cozy bed but once he is up and moving he is ready to face to day with vim and vigor. His life is a simple one and it is the simple things that make him happiest. I do not know what this weekend will bring in terms of teacher negotiations but I pray that the outcome if a fair and equitable one for all concerned and that on Tuesday Boo Bear and all the other students in St. Paul public schools will get up and go to school as usual.