School's out until teachers can negotiate a fair deal with the school district, but, instead of getting high and playing video games (as I would have done), a group of students from more than 10 Seattle-area high schools gathered together in UW's Red Square to read.
Eli Konsker said he organized the event in solidarity with the teachers' strike because teachers have supported him during his three years at Nathan Hale High School. But he also wanted to offer students a chance to be productive even though they weren't in school. "I invited people to work on college essays, finish up summer reading, anything educational," he said.
Another organizer, Jessamyn Reichmann of Roosevelt High School, told me that she volunteers at a local food bank, where she sees her teachers and counselors shopping for their families. "The fact that they're working so hard, and yet they don't have enough money to simply put food on the table—that's an issue for me," she said. She loves the fact that teachers are striking not only for more pay, but also for less testing and more equity in the schools. "I believe that justice delayed is justice denied," she said, before adding, "If mamma bear isn't happy, then nobody's happy. So if the teachers aren't happy, the students aren't going to be happy."
Reichmann knows first-hand what an underfunded school looks like. "The classroom sizes, especially at Roosevelt, are so over-packed," she said. "The learning environment isn't as productive as I'd want to see it. It's hard for one teacher to focus on 30 different students who have 30 different learning patterns. We can see that."
She claimed that the northern schools do okay because of their fundraising efforts, but her family and friends who attend schools in the south—like Franklin and Garfield—tell her that those places are "falling apart."
Reichmann said she was reading Paul Rogat Loeb's The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear because, she said, "It inspires me to go out there and change the world, to be really proactive about things no matter how young you are." She wants to go to NYU or Columbia to focus on social justice and journalism. They'd be lucky to have her.