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Teacher Under Construction: When the War on Teachers Hits Home–Literally

I never imagined I’d be writing a post like this.

As many of you know, I often try my hardest to bring light to the attacks happening on teachers from various locations. We can’t deny that our struggles are all intertwined. Yet, never did I imagine I’d be writing to bring light to what’s happening to the very teachers I grew up with. For the past year I’ve been blogging, meeting the fearless teachers from places like Chicago and Seattle–it was clear, that the war on teachers and the profession is real, very real. But now, attacks on the teachers who helped get me to where I am today? The very teachers who inspired me to pursue this profession in the first place?

Someone has ticked off the wrong alum.

From kindergarten until high school, I had the incredible privilege to attend Egg Harbor Twp Public Schools (EHTPS) located in South New Jersey. About a month ago I came across one of my former teacher’s Facebook status. Essentially this teacher vented her frustrations with the policies and requirements she is being forced to follow. For her, she feels that the policies administrators and the state are forcing her to implement on her students does barely anything positive for her students. Additionally, a few weeks ago, I came across yet another one of my former teacher’s post.

Despite my numerous complaints..I really love teaching and my students. But I’ve never, ever been more disheartened about the profession than I am at this moment. For those of you not directly involved in education, you should know that the new teacher evaluations, the Common Core, and the testing culture that dominates public schools all have nothing to do with making students better learners or better people. We might already be !@#$ed as a society, but there’s no way that these school reforms will help remedy what ails us.

I’d also like to make note that both of these teachers who made their comments played an irreplaceable role in why I’ve chosen to pursue the teaching profession.

Not long after I saw these posts, I was informed about what has been going on. Teachers have been working without a contract this school year. The Egg Harbor Twp Board of Education and the Teachers Union can’t seem to come to an agreement. EHT teachers are not only working on last year’s contract, but are now making less than they were last year because they are now paying for their own health benefits. Additionally, the BOE wants to extend their school day, but not give them a 2% raise that the state allows.  Also, the high school administrators have been removing union stickers from their doors (which teachers have immediately responded and just stuck new ones back up).

EHT teachers make me a proud alum–they’re not staying silent.

Just this past weekend, an estimated 400 teachers and staff went out to the pre-homecoming game to picket about their contract.









I can’t emphasize enough on how important I think actions like these are. EHTPS teachers could have easily accepted their demands.

But, nope. EHTPS teachers chose to do what scares administrators the most–teachers recognizing what they deserve, and that they have the power to fight for it.

It is terrifying, because they know that organizing and collective power can win.

EHTPS teachers, remember, you are not only educators inside your classrooms, but outside of them, too. Don’t think for a second your students and others won’t learn from your decision to say, “No, we know we deserve better.” You’re not only fighting for what’s fair and what you deserve, but your fight is teaching so many of your students, so much of our community, to stand up for what we believe in. Don’t forget to remind others, that your working conditions are students’ learning conditions. I am constantly bombarded with the question of, “How can you still choose to become a teacher knowing the attacks you are going to face once you’re in it?” It is the teachers like you that remind me why. Teachers who refuse to be passive and obedient, who stand up and fight for the profession and their students, that remind me: When you see something you love being attacked, you don’t run the other way and hide. No, you stand up and fight like hell to protect it.

So with that being said, stay strong, don’t you dare let up. We know that the teachers who don’t let up are the ones who win. You work too hard, have opened and inspired too many lives to settle for less than you know you all deserve.

And for those outside of EHT area, here are some ways you can help:

  1. Give our Board of Education a call: (609) 646-8441. Let them know why you think teachers deserve a fair contract.
  2. Spread the word!
  3. And of course, messages of solidarity and support. Please check out their Facebook group.

Thank you all in advance for your support.

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Stephanie Rivera

Stephanie Rivera is a student at Rutgers University. She is a future teacher and educational equity activist. ...