A week ago, September 9 seemed like the biggest day of my life. The start of high school felt like some impossible adventure, and even considering the impending threat of hours of homework, I couldn't wait. September 9 was the day of making new friends, starting new classes, beginning the next chapter of my life. Now I'm sitting in a cafe drinking ginger ale and writing about dinosaurs for fun like the nerd that I am. I'm not, in fact, playing the least exciting game of hooky ever. (Not that dinosaurs aren't exciting, obviously. While I'm here in the public eye, does anyone have any good facts about the brontosaurus?) No, I'm a Seattle Public Schools student, and my teachers are on strike.
When I first found out about the plan for a strike, I was incredulous, then relieved, and then irritated. Because obviously they wouldn't cancel the first day of school just over a wage disagreement, right? I quickly adopted a nonchalant attitude, figuring it either wouldn't happen, or would be resolved quickly to avoid bad PR. As the first day approached, I began panicking a little, worried that it would actually be canceled. And sure enough, it was.
Now, it's important to distinguish what this strike is actually about, because wages aren't at all the heart of the issue as I believed a week ago. I'm not here to give the full breakdown of the teachers' demands; if you're curious you should check out my stepmom Jen Graves's article on the subject. I'm the daughter she mentions. For the record, she's even cooler in person. [Ed. note: Through her veil of proud tears, Jen Graves finds this awkward.] Suffice it to say that these teachers are standing up for their students in incredible ways, advocating for longer recesses, better and less crowded facilities, and equality for poor students and students of color. Until I read the piece linked above, I had no idea of the scope of the issues going on in my city. One of my friends sent me a snapchat about it last night. (For you adults in the audience, snapchat is basically the app people use to sext each other without worrying about people taking screenshots. Or, alternatively, send pictures to their friends without clogging up their camera rolls.) It read, in what I assumed to be a sarcastic tone, "Welcome to Seattle Public Schools." And then, like my official welcome from the school, it was gone as quickly as it appeared.
I feel like I should give some background about me. I've been in private school for my whole life, in a grade of 30 or so people, nearly all of them rich and white. And I mean really rich and white. I've been in classes with the McCaws (yes, as in McCaw Hall) and those are not even the fanciest billionaires associated with my school. I never even thought about it. I was in a bubble of people just like me, privileged and wealthy, all expected to get well-paying white-collar jobs or, if they were a little unlucky, easily glide through adulthood on inheritance. My $22,000-a-year K-8 education taught me a lot, but somehow it failed to teach me that these broken establishments are not in far-off countries but also right here in my city. The system of standardized education talks about inequality in the past tense, and while I was never completely oblivious, I certainly never thought this sort of thing would happen at my school. Or maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention.
But I digress. Basically, I was ignorant, and didn't realize that my wanting to start school on time is worth a lot less than these issues. What I also didn't realize is that the teachers don't have to do this. It isn't for them; it's for the students who don't have anyone on their side. When they voted to strike, there wasn't a single “no” voter in the audience. That's a little bit awesome.
For now, I'll enjoy the few extra days of sleeping in I get. I personally hope school starts up again soon, but if it doesn't, I'll know it's for a good reason. And I'll know that even if they assign too much work or yell at me for no reason, my teachers are doing something pretty amazing. Thank you for that. As for the students, two things. One, read up on this. My opinion is vastly inadequate, but reading more articles has helped me gain a better understanding of this problem and the world I live in. And two, if you're going to Ingraham, look for me. If you're reading this, we probably have something in common. Come say hi, and we'll talk about political and racial equality in the education system. I know, I'm everything you'd ever want in a friend.
Macy Quigg, 14, is an incoming freshman at Ingraham High School.