On Monday, I attended a Geneva School District 304 board meeting that was called to address the possible teacher strike in Geneva.
While I saw plenty of teachers out in their green shirts and plenty of vocal community members, I saw very few students. That surprised me. After all, school is about the students. I decided to overlook my depressing count of just five students and pay attention to the mud being slung.
What shocked me most about the meeting was the fact that I didn’t hear any educators speak. When I privately asked a teacher about this, she responded that people had been speaking for weeks to no avail. Slightly miffed, I continued listening.
One theme that kept popping up was the idea of bullying. Some speakers alleged that the Geneva Education Association was being a bully to the students, taxpayers and their fellow teachers. While I am in no position to deny that the people who have taught me everything I know are not horrible, evil bullies who are intent on bleeding the taxpayers dry I also cannot confirm that. I can confirm that I have heard some of the most hurtful words and corresponding ideas from anti-GEA citizens over the past few months.
The idea that Geneva teacher salaries are luxurious is absolute malarkey. A teacher of mine once told me that she hasn’t been able to buy new clothes in two years. My history teacher last year taught us during the day, worked another job at night, and somehow tended to his newborn daughter in the meantime. In fact, many of my teachers work two jobs.
Some work through the school as coaches, while other teachers simply volunteer their time for clubs. Teaching is not a 9-to-5 job; it’s a 7-to-5 job – and that’s plus grading, tutoring struggling students, and, for most teachers, giving up weekends and nights to coach and worry about us.
These people give their lives to their students, but they simply aren’t paid enough to do so. Yes, our school district is in debt. But we are not in a deflationary environment, and there is some reserve money. It isn’t the teachers’ fault that the district is in debt, and I don’t think that these hardworking people and their students should be punished for it.
If my teachers strike, I’ll be upset. Sports and clubs will be canceled until the strike is over. Additionally, college transcript information will likely be frozen in the guidance office, making life even trickier for my fellow seniors. Geneva High School holds its own against Illinois’ top high schools, and we have some of the best ACT scores in the county. I work hard every day to be successful, and so do my teachers.
And at this point, we can’t try any harder.
• Courtney Phelan is a senior at Geneva High School. She is an outgoing and energetic young writer who likes to swim, read and participate in general teenage activities. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.