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A Lesson in The Power of Our Voices: An Open letter to WV students after the WV Teacher Strike

By Jeni Gearhart

Objectives for all WV students for the last 9 days

TSWBAT engage in civil discourse and identify discourse that is not so civil

TSWBAT analyze rhetoric of: protest signs, politicians’ speeches, and national news stories

TSWBAT understand the power of individual voices in unity

 

Dear West Virginia Students,

First of all, I’ve missed you horribly over the past 9 days. I’ve worried about whether you were fed and safe and whether you were learning anything while we weren’t in school. I worried about whether you understood why your teachers were standing outside rather than in our classrooms.

Student, I hope you’ve been paying attention in the last 9 days because one of the most important lessons of your life happened right at your doorstep.

Our voices have power. We can make change. In unity there is strength.

You were just part of a movement. We reminded America of our beautiful state’s strength. We came together 55 Strong and stood steadfast for all West Virginians. We stood for you.

Some of you literally stood with us. You stood in the cold with your teachers for hours. You brought us donuts, or honked your horn in support as you drove by. Some of you called legislators or wrote them e-mails. You were a part of history. I’m so proud of you.

We all learned a lot in the last 9 days. Here are some of the lessons you learned while you weren’t in school.

  1. Stand up for your beliefs: This is the most important thing that I hope you learned. Since you walked into my classroom in August, I told you that standing for your beliefs is essential. I told you to never back down from doing what you know is right. Student, I stood for what I believed in for the past few weeks. It was hard. I cried. I wondered if I was making the right decisions, but I knew what I stood for was right. Always stand up for your beliefs, even when it is incredibly difficult.

 

  1. In times of need, communities come together: Our communities collected and distributed food for those who were most in need. You were often a part of that. We gathered and bagged food, churches opened their doors, businesses donated food and money to feed our hungriest kids. Our community supported us, and they supported you.

 

  1. Our voices have power and every voice matters: From the story of Gideon to your very own letters and conversations with legislators, we’ve seen the power of our voices. When our voices are united for a common goal, we can make change. In the past weeks, I’ve stood in a sea of red and sung “Country Roads” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” They heard us. We made change. You were a part of that.

 

  1. What you say, and how you say it matters: We’ve listened closely to politicians in the past few weeks. We’ve analyzed their rhetoric, we’ve done our best to discern truth from manipulation. We’ve learned that words can be used against us, and they can be used to bring about change. We’ve learned the power of a good argument.

 

  1. People should not be used as political weapons: Standing up for your beliefs is the most important lesson you could learn, but this is a close second. You, my dear student, should not have been used as a political weapon in the last few weeks. Legislators should not have bartered with your ability to receive education, support, or food for the sake of achieving a political win. All people matter, and you’ve heard me say that since day one. People are not political weapons. You, especially, should not be treated as one.

My dear student, I cannot wait to be home in our classroom. Your future is why I fought so hard. You are what kept me going.

Reading and discussing Macbeth is important. So is learning how to use the quadratic formula and knowing the most important dates of the Civil War. But, what you learned in the past two weeks is just as essential.

I cannot wait to see you soon.

Love,

Your WV Teacher

#55strong

 

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Dear English Teachers of West Virginia,

We are a group of passionate teachers who are committed to providing our students with the highest quality instruction and most valuable learning experience we can offer. We believe English teachers throughout our state have a story to tell, expertise to share, and the ability to change and shape the lives of our students. 

We believe when teachers are connected, have a voice, and are plugged in, students benefit. WVCTE provides teachers a professional experience that inspires greatness, so they can reach their students in ways that result in learning that matters and endures.   

Please join us in uniting West Virginia educators. 

Let’s inspire greatness together. 

WVCTE Executive Committee