And for a little while, normalcy returned to our world. I had spent the evening before at the Capitol, in the crowd of thousands that pushed against the locked doors, demanding to be let in. I think I spent most of the night in shock – not only at how suddenly I could be deprived of everything I had worked for, but of how suddenly the country I thought I knew could become unrecognizable. I was standing with a crowd on the steps in front of the Capitol door when a police officer slammed it shut in our faces. I walked around the building until I found a spot where protesters had lowered a bathroom window. And I watched in disbelief as people began hoisting each other in through the open window, while dozens milled around them. “Ssssh,” they warned each other. Don’t make any noises that might attract the police.
This was my country now.
But this morning, I had to pretend that none of that had happened. I had to pretend that my colleagues were not sobbing in the teachers’ lounge, wondering why the world had suddenly turned on them. I had to pretend that teaching is still a respected and valued profession. I had to pretend that the future for my young students is still as bright as it seemed a few weeks ago.
So today, my children and I discussed music. We talked about how you can’t see music, but when you listen to it, you can imagine pictures in your head. How sometimes those pictures can lighten your soul.
All of them lay down on the carpet and closed their eyes. I turned on a piano concerto by Bach. They saw mermaids, whales, ballerinas twirling. I played some jazz. “Look, my toe is tapping!” one girl exclaimed excitedly.
I don’t cry in public, and not in front of my students, but I felt tears suddenly well in my eyes. These are the moments that Scott Walker and his ilk are letting go. These moments when children transform because of something they learned in school. An experience they had because of a loving teacher and a dedicated staff.
And I know that all of this could soon be gone. My rights were taken away in a blink of an eye. Now how easily will they take away the right my students have to an enriching, enthralling education? Under Walker’s budget, my school and all the other public schools in the state are facing drastic cuts. We could lose the arts. We could lose music. We could lose sports. And counselors. And librarians. Custodians. Secretaries. School nurses. Field trips. Summer school.
We could lose pre-kindergarten.
Which is what I thought about as I looked at my class, lying on their backs, eyes scrunched close, imagining music. Which is why, when you see teachers weeping today, you should know they are not crying only for themselves. They are crying because public education in this state is being dismantled. It started with the unions. And it will end with hurting our children.
I pulled out the watercolors. We have been making a mural for the hallway outside our room. I turned on another jazz song and modeled how to let music inspire your painting. I started with dark colors, the blues and greens, then unconsciously began to add yellows. “Yellow is for happy,” one child observed.
“It’s for hope,” I agreed.