December 7 - December 13, 1995

Eighth Day

HALF-NELSON NEGOTIATION: Over back fences, in cafeterias, under bathroom stalls, we wrestled with the issue: Should we support the teachers of our children as they go to the mat over things salaried and sane? Should we, the caregivers of some 62,000 enrolled students, keep our kids home for one day to support the first walkout in 17 years by the 5,000-member teacher's union in Tucson Unified School District?

How we got to this question started last July when a TUSD board majority and the Tucson Education Association could not agree on issues surrounding bilingual classroom aides, salary schedules for teachers, class sizes, and heating and cooling. Teachers awarded the board bad marks, and the freestyle wrestling match was on.

When board member Mary Belle McCorkle went into action at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday, two days before the planned walkout, the question became moot. In a side roll-and-switch maneuver, she would now vote to allow teachers to reach the top of their payscale earlier. Her escape action, applauded by few, was enough to call off the union's crotch hold.

School was never going to be closed, but many people, including me, decided we would keep our kids out of school to support education. My feeling is, if teachers aren't happy, kids aren't happy. And if kids aren't happy, Mama's not happy. And if Mama's not happy, she gonna pin somebody to the gym floor.

When my son came home I could see he had heard there would not be a day off. "But my teacher said if we have plans we don't have to go to school."

He had made Christmas shopping plans with Grandma, but I told him things had changed, indelicately adding I doubted his teacher would say that. Sound the buzzer.

The kid went nuts. Flexing his professional guilt muscle, he swore everyone from school leaders to teachers to his mother and the mayor were a bunch of amateurs who didn't know the rules and only wanted to cheat kids.

This is the first year my son has shown an interest in shopping for holiday gifts. And it turns out, the kid had been told by his teacher if he had other plans he had a right to those plans. I could feel myself going down.

I would wrestle a walrus for this fourth grade teacher; this teacher who spends more time with my son than I do; this teacher who has shown him how to diagram the depth of an ocean, and what language looks like and the shed of a snake; this teacher who will forever be in my son's history, like my fourth grade teacher, Miss Houghton, who let me be the one to bury the class time capsule.

This teacher and this kid were right.

So my son took an unorthodox absence and we both learned there is room for negotiation, even when educated adults are involved. I get a present under the tree and he got a day off.

As for the main match, no points awarded on either side, warriors.
--Hannah Glasston

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December 7 - December 13, 1995

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