Why I Won’t Strike: A Perspective

Angela Buzan Current Affairs, Education, Life in the Classroom

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One summer in Venice Beach I met a Chihuahua-Greyhound mix named Igor. His eye-contact was both suspicious and inviting. Its puffy body, taut tendons, and long, curved toenails made him somehow look like a tiny hot air balloon. His owner said he was never a dog person until he met Igor: he was captivated by the way the animal personified two extremes: the greyhound’s tranquil desire to run, and the Chihuahua’s quirky tendency to observe and fight.

Friends, I’m feeling Igor-esque about the strike. I’ve supported the peaceful walk-ins. I red-shirted Wednesdays with first-week-freshman enthusiasm. I painted my car with hashtags. I protested in front of City Hall. As the movement grew, I felt increasingly inspired and supported: I thought, “wow: we might actually get the governor’s attention.”

And then we did: he responded with a proposal for a twenty-percent raise. Twenty percent as in the big, impossible number.  My husband, who was out-of-town, jokingly texted me, “So what are you going to do now that you’re rich?” and that’s when my “oh wow” became “oh no”. Only then did it occur to me that the public might see our motives as selfish. So I did the Twitter thing and was surprised to see that it was the teachers who were angry.

Here’s the most important sentence in this blog: teachers are justifiably upset that the proposal doesn’t give students what they deserve. Here’s the second most important sentence in this blog: the walk out will cause school closures.

Jess Ledbetter, in her recent post “A Call for Unity” brilliantly outlines why Governor Ducey’s proposal is not sufficient. Her tone, ever didactic, outlines why educators shouldn’t settle; essentially, she emphasizes why giving in now would undermine students, not the movement.

But I just can’t do it. I will walk-in. I won’t walk out. But I won’t give up.

Hello Igor.

Let me illustrate another tiny, ironic balloon. The strikes are interrupting my students’ preparation for Law Day—a mock trial where they’ll get to present cases for and against the second amendment to a judge. They’d also be planning for our Mural Project—an end-of-the-year assignment that enables students to manifest their leaning by turning a school hallway into an illustrative tour of our last book.

The only place I want to be on Thursday is in my classroom with kids. On Friday, I also want to be in my classroom with kids. And also on the following Monday. Repeat and ditto until June 1st. After June 1st, I want to spend several days in a hammock in the woods recharging before I start prepping for next year’s students.

So on Thursday, I’ll be doing a “teach-in”. I’ll host a study session for students who want to research and create. I’ll be grateful for the teachers who will be professionally ensuring a quality educational future, but I’ll be the teacher who is there for that day. And the next day, and the next. We each have our role and I think I’m okay with being the weird little dog that’s a constant companion even if it has a strange, little bark.

I believe in the magic of a single day of school. I also believe in the power of perspective pieces. I highly recommend each of the following blogs, which humanize the many views of this movement and how it impacts education:

RedforEd: United We Stand, Divided We Fall, by Treva Jenkins

Families: A Call for Unity with #REDforED, by Jess Ledbetter

Stop Playing Chess Without A Queen, by Mike Vargas


Angela Buzan is a full time English teacher in the Flagstaff Unified School District. She has thirteen years’ teaching experience and has taught all grades seven through twelve. In 2010, she received a Fulbright Teacher Exchange fellowship to Kolkata, India; in 2012 she achieved National Board Certification; in 2014 she earned a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Design and Instruction. Her current challenge is to out-read Gavin, in third period, who typically polishes off three novels a week.

Comments 5

  1. Jess Ledbetter

    This blog provides such a beautiful glimpse into each magical day in your classroom. I’m concerned about the growing public dialogue that argues teachers are “walking out on kids.” It’s such a hurtful thing to say to teachers who give it their ALL every day. The teachers who really want to walk out have already done that: They’ve left their contracts unsigned or worse–signed them and then quit in the middle of the year. Every teacher in a clasroom teaching today is a teacher who has decided not to walk out on kids, despite the financial hardship on their own families and the emotional hardship of working in underfunded schools where kids don’t get all they deserve. Teachers are faced with a terrible decision to make on Thursday for districts that remain open. I will certainly be thinking of all of you who choose the tough position of going to school that day. Loved this piece!

  2. Treva Jenkins

    Thank you Angela for this piece. As you mentioned in your blog, it’s always good to hear and read a wide variety of perspectives on this issue. We need to know what our fellow teachers are feeling and struggling with as this walkout approaches. As Jess mentioned, this is a tough decision for all of us. No teacher, including myself, if you asked them, wants to “walk out” ; we rather be with our scholars creating wonderful, memorable classroom memories; we rather be nurturing their young minds and sparking their passion for learning; we rather be working with our families to ensure our little ones close out the year successfully. My prayer is that this sign of solidarity on Thursday at the state Capitol will yield the results we are requesting and we can all get back to the reason why we entered this profession in the first place: The LOVE of teaching :)

  3. Les Hauer

    I am 100% behind the cause of raising the pay of teachers and support staff in Arizona to a respectable level and increasing funding to pre-recession levels and beyond, but, I do not support a walk out. Like police officers and nurses, our jobs are too important to be left undone, even for a day.

    In my estimation, the walk-out is a political and strategic mistake. We were on the cusp of a victory that came close to satisfying our initial demands but we squandered this in the hopes that we could win total victory, this is a miscalculation. The people of Arizona support pay raises for teachers. They are on our side, for now. A walk out risks losing the support we currently enjoy.

    A better strategy would be to take advantage of public support and the governor’s offer to get a measure on November’s ballot to secure a 20% raise with funding sources that are acceptable to educators and Arizona voter’s alike. Then, after that victory has been won we can continue the fight to improve funding and education in Arizona. We must clearly understand the challenges we face and who we must ally with to achieve our objectives. This fight is similar to a baseball game; you must know and play against your opponent’s weaknesses while capitalizing on your strengths; you must produce runs when the opportunities arise; swinging for the fences might be dramatic but it is not a winning strategy.

  4. Jaime Festa-Daigle

    Thank you for this. My school did not close and it was decided our teachers would travel to Phoenix on a rolling basis. We are just working to build trust with our community. I have had so many emotions about this. Our school play opened this week, we had a national speaker today, and the science olympiad tomorrow. I am sure, just like schools around the state who had so many things happening! I can’t imagine the way educators felt as schools closed. I knew I would be assigned to cover classes and I felt like my life was easier because there wasn’t a decison for me to make. It is so important that we are all in this together knowing we want what is best for our kids, our communities, and our professions. It was empowering to see our teachers who went to Phoenix and to work locally at an after school Stand Out. Your class is so lucky to have you! Thank you for the connected reading!

  5. Lisa Moberg

    Although a passionate supporter for the Walkout, I appreciate your perspective. I can relate to: “I believe in the magic of a single day of school.” I was also preparing for our Night at the Museum, turning our grade level wing into the Middle Ages. It was absolutely crazy to lose those instructional days and then cram it all into remaining bits of time!! The Walkout definitely had some wins but also a few losses along the way.

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