In case you have not heard the state of Oklahoma, my state, is in a bit of crisis. I have joined tens of thousands of other educators in descending upon our state capitol to march in protest over the lack of proper education funding. I am going to share some reflections of this process each day here.
You can see precious days reflections here:
Today I want to focus on why I am marching. There are really three reasons. Those that came before me. Teachers and students today. Students of tomorrow. So today, I will focus briefly on each of these motives.
Those That Came Before
I will start this reasoning with a broad view of history then personalize it. I teach history. Being a part of this has definitely felt historic. One of my favorite parts of history is studying and teaching about the Gilded Age and Progressive Eras and about the struggle for labor and unions in that time. It is one thing to study Gompers, Debs, those involved in Haymarket and others. Last summer I had the opportunity to visit some of the places of some of those historic standoffs, and it was definitely another thing to see those sites in person. Yet, to take part in a modern-day labor movement has been a completely other level. It has caused history to come to life in powerful ways.
Bringing this to a more personal level I march, protest, and advocate because of my grandfather and parents.
My grandpa – Cleadis Robert Gragg, Sr. – dropped out of high school with a year left because he needed to help provide for his mom and siblings. He was working in the boiler room at his former school. One day the principal asked him why he never finished. They worked out an arrangement where he came to work at 4:00 AM, went to class then finished work. He graduated and went to college to play football. He obtained a degree to teach high school history. He graduated college during the depression. He could not support my grandmother as a teacher so he went to work on the railroad instead. My parents – Bob & Theresa Gragg – started their career as educators in 1973. My mom was a teacher until she retired due to medical reasons in 2006 having taught elementary school, childcare, music in all grades, and English in junior high, as well as serving in some administrative roles. My dad is technically retired but still working as an interim superintendent & administrative mentor & educational consultant after a 30+ year career as a coach, teacher, and administrator.
Teachers & Students Today
My wife and I are educators. Stephanie is in year 10, and I am in year 3. We are committed to being educators in this state. I am participating for us and for our friends and colleagues. I am so participating for my students. It pains me not seeing my students daily this week. I love each of them dearly. I know this is important for their future, however. They need better resources in the classroom. They need better access to technology and newer books. I spoke with a middle school STEM teacher from another part of the state this morning. She is using a textbook published in 1999. For a moment, imagine the difficulty in trying to teach technology in the age of cloud computing, smartphones, and social media with a book written in the days of dial-up, pagers, and Windows 98. Those are the obstacles in providing a quality education in Oklahoma right now. Our current students and teachers deserve better!
Students of Tomorrow
My oldest son, Bowman, is 6. He is in kindergarten. He deserves a great education. My daughter, Lorelai, is 5. She is in Pre-K. She deserves a great education. My younger son, Cohen, is 2. He is not in school yet. He deserves a great education. There are hundreds of thousands of others in the state that deserve that same great education my own children deserve. Not to mention the untold numbers of those not yet born.
This is why I am advocating and protesting. My predecessors laid a foundation I must build upon to help create a better future for the students of both today and tomorrow. They deserve it!