Today there are no students in my building or any school in my district. In their place hundreds of parents travel from class to class at the sound of the bells. This isn’t some form of freaky Friday or trading place, it is parent teacher conferences. Of course parent teacher conferences are a common occurrence, but we schedule them on this day for another reason, the election. You see parents aren’t the only ones in our schools today. Members of the general public are traveling to our building where they will cast their ballot in the midterm elections.
Across the country, schools are used a polling places. Could there be a better location to vote? After all schools are where many people first learn about the democratic process. Whether it be through founders’ day plays in elementary school, social studies classes in middle school or US History and government in high school. My high school even has fostering citizenship as a core tenant of our mission statement. And yet despite being a pillar of democracy in our community, I often find that my colleagues are not doing their civic duty to vote.
There are many excuses to be heard in the hall ways or teacher cafeteria: it’s been a long day I just want to go home, I don’t know enough about the candidates, it’s only the midterms, and does my vote really matter anyways? Those excuses just won’t do for me, especially at a time so critical to the future of our profession.
In a time when issues such as educational funding, taxes, pensions, collective bargaining, educational reform, and curriculum are being debated how can we not let our voices be heard on Election Day? I’m not arguing that all teachers need to go out in force and vote for one candidate or one issue. I know our local and state unions do their best to keep us informed on political issues but we still have a personal responsibility to act on that information. What compels us to vote shouldn’t be the fact that we are educators and our union has prompted us to protect the future of education, but that we are citizens of the United States and have been given an opportunity and privilege to vote.
We teach our students about the democratic process. We champion citizenship. And we choose to act in opposition to those values when we don’t vote. The old adage of actions speak louder than words holds true for educators too. If we truly believe in the citizenship we are promoting to our students we need to act as a citizen and vote.
Don’t because you are a teacher trying to hold on to a pension. Vote because it is your duty as a citizen and because that little “I voted” sticker will have more of an impact on your students than any lesson you could teach on democracy.