Tales from the Front Lines - Blog by Paul GamboaA few years ago, on my Facebook page, a coworker posted one of those infamous snarky memes which Facebook users are so fond of.

The message was, “I think I found the perfect description of you.” It was followed by the following term on a poster (cleaned up for this column).

“Apocaloptimist: Someone who knows the world is [falling apart] but believes things will be ok.”

My wife is a Grassroots Political Activist in another region. She was somewhat feeling down last night (understandably so) as the election results started pouring in. I was quick to point out that we didn’t fail in this election.

Our goal was to get our members engaged and get our message out. We had phone banking, postcards, meetings, canvassing, one on one conversations and countless other efforts to educate any educator we could find. My wife and I were asked to visit buildings in our districts as well as other districts and associations to talk about what is at stake. I couldn’t be more proud of my association’s building representatives. They were truly magnificent in delivering the message about what the candidates stood for and what was at stake in the election.

Almost anywhere I went, educators knew what this election was about. I was walking around buildings yesterday and can’t count how many “I Voted” stickers were proudly attached to the backs of IDs swinging from lanyards.

Our efforts were a success in this respect. We got out the message and we got out our members.

I can tell you from talking to almost any educator in the state over the past several months, I was hard pressed to find one that wasn’t aware of what was at stake in this election.

It would be harder to digest the results of the election if a candidate that was truly a friend of education was defeated. However it’s impossible to argue that Quinn was.

Quinn has always felt like the person you ask out in high school who would politely decline or already have a date. Yet they’d devour the attention and be happy to broadcast to anyone who would listen that you had a thing for them. On the other end of the spectrum, the other person you asked out not only laughed when you asked them out in the first place but then engaged in an active campaign to destroy your self image and any chance there was of getting a date to the dance with anyone else.

Bottom line is: neither option is appetizing. It’s pathetic when the president in the office next to me and I were comparing the choices we had to Darth Vader vs. Voldemort.

The options were bad and worse. You had one candidate that didn’t care in the least but was happy to laud how much attention we showered them with as a weak effort to prove he was a “friend of education.” The other candidate took perverse pleasure in destroying you on multiple levels.

There is good that came of this. Educators are waking up. They are starting to understand the toll that the endless political decisions and mandates are taking on our schools, our students and our staff. For years, the educators in my district were very much politically indifferent. That wasn’t the case this year.

This is going to be the key to what we could be facing coming up in the next few months. This isn’t the time to be resigned to a fate.

We all have jobs to know and we will all continue to do all that we can to serve our students the best we can. It’s conference season around the state and it’s time to focus on working to together with parents to make sure that all of our students are achieving their highest level.

Our passion and kids-first mentality is the single most frustrating thing about Rauner’s message during the primaries. He has no right to tell us what our organization stands for. He has no idea the collaboration that we have done with “school reformers.” Having a passion for trying to do what’s best for students isn’t going to change. We are educators. That’s what we’re here for. That’s what we need to educate the public about.

This isn’t the time to fall asleep and to stop paying attention to what is going on in Springfield and in Washington. There will be sweeping changes coming that will have massive impacts on everything we do. We need to be ready to move, ready to call, ready to march, and ready to act.

Every single one of us got into this profession because we have a passion for working with children and in taking pride in watching our students grow, learn and succeed. We can never forget this.

However, we have to keep in the front of our minds that there are changes that will be coming that could take a direct toll on the very people we are here to serve. This is not the time to forget the passion and engagement we had for this election. On the contrary, it’s time to feed off that and prepare for what is coming.

Let’s make no bones about it, it’s coming. We need to be ready.

One of the primary focuses of educating our members about the election was the devastating changes that eviscerated public education in Wisconsin after Scott Walker was first elected. Now it’s even more important to listen to the voices of the hundreds of thousands who were affected by Walker’s policies. We will not become another Wisconsin. I will not work in a state where “teacher” is a bad word.

Here’s where the apocaloptomist in me will shine through. It’s very likely that we will be facing a similar push to destroy our rights to collectively bargaining and have a true say in the education of our students.

However, we have learned lessons by watching what happened to our neighbors to the north. We are far more educated as to what could happen. We know what this means, and we know the potential impact if similar laws are enacted.

It’s on all of us to gear up and get ready for what’s coming. Igniting a passion first involves educating. We have done this. The next step is for us to not forget and to remain vigilant about protecting our rights and protecting public education.

It’s now that we need to stay together and be ready to react on the fly. If we don’t fight for the future of public education, no one will. It’s in situations like this where, if we stay strong and stay together, an opportunity exists.

Collectively, we have woken up our members but also woken up a lot of politicians. In fact with the increased attention we’ve been getting from some of more famously indifferent legislators, it’s easy to see why the IEA is viewed as a threat. We are not one person; we are 130,000. It has never been more important that we remember this and use this to help move public education forward.

I’m not down. I’m not giving up. All this means is that we need to become the strongest advocates that all of us who chose this profession can be.

We now know what we are facing and we know what we need to do. Get ready! It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I look forward to seeing your comments in the section below. You can also follow me on Twitter by following @paulgamboa. Thanks for reading!

Paul Gamboa is a teacher who is currently serving as president of the Indian Prairie Education Association.