As many of you have already heard, the district is reporting that the number of teachers calling in today is 13% below normal. Am I surprised by this? Absolutely not. In fact, it would not surprise me if a number of people who came in today did so to avoid any form of retribution. I have been addressing the issue of fear throughout this last week because I knew if anything could shut down this movement, it would be the fear.
In the end, the fear won.
The news media is already calling the Sick Out a failure, and based on numbers alone I would have to agree. There is no denying that I had hoped for a greater participation, but before I raise the white flag, I would like to point to a few successes:
-For a few weeks, much attention has been paid to the working conditions within the Dallas Independent School District. Teachers have had the opportunity to voice their concerns, express their dissatisfaction, and highlight the disrespect they have experienced at the hands of the board.
-The district, at least for a day, was shaking in their boots in a way that the union could never have achieved. From their 11th hour plea to principals to develop some form of action plan for the Sick Out, it was apparent that a cage or two was rattled.
-Some of us found our voice. Many people who have been on the sidelines and watched the union try their hand at "representing" us have continually found AFT/Alliance's inability to produce results frustrating. For once, they felt as if someone was trying to do something.
If the district's self-reported absence numbers are true, then it is safe to say that the Sick Out will produce no changes. Of course, I was under no illusion that there would be some massive revolution in district policy as a result, but I refuse to remain silent any longer.
The results of today's sick out are disappointing, but I remind myself of what I always tell my students who get nervous or are reluctant to perform a task because, as they say, "It's too hard."
"If you don't try, I promise you, you will not succeed. There is no shame in trying and failing, because at least you had the courage to try. Give it a shot, try your best, and you may surprise yourself."
Those of us who are absent today have at least one card to hold in our pockets. When the next change comes down, the next unfair policy is voted on behind closed doors, and our colleagues grumble and groan, we can pull out that card and hand it to them. It would read:
I tried to do something.
You shook in fear and did nothing.
Now take your medicine."