Groups urge 'walk-in' to support teachers

Taleyna Craig looks through a soft-drink bottle converted into a wave machine while Bright Beginnings teacher Phillis Robertson and fellow student Kaleb Thomas watch her reaction at Winding Springs Elementary School. (John D. Simmons / Charlotte Observer)


by DIANA RUGG / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @DianaRuggwcnc

STATESVILLE, N.C. -- Several teacher groups are saying they won’t take part in a “walk-out” at school Monday, as a Facebook page is urging them to do.

The page “NC Teachers Strike!” was created to advocate a teacher walkout on November 4, but has instead turned into a rallying cry to “walk in” to show support for teachers and public education.

Kendra Crews, a third and fourth grade teacher at East Elementary School in Statesville, is one teacher who plans on being in the classroom Monday morning.

“One day may not seem like a lot to everybody else, but that's a whole day of instruction that we get behind,” she said.  She posted an impassioned letter about teaching on her Facebook page, and invited NBC Charlotte to read it.

“I believe that teaching isn't a career, it is a calling,” she wrote. “When I decided to answer that call and become a teacher, I knew that they didn't get paid a lot, but obviously teachers don't go into this profession for the money.”

She understands why some teachers may feel like walking out will make a point.  The state legislature took away incentives for teachers earning Masters Degrees, and are trying to eliminate tenure.

But she reminds teachers to think about why they entered the profession.

“We get frustrated, but we don't live every day and come to work every day for ourselves,” she said during our interview.  “They should think about the student they'll be leaving behind when they walk out.”

The superintendent of Iredell-Statesville Schools, Brady Johnson, sent an e-mail to teachers on October 15th urging them to turn the walk-out around.

“On November 4, I urge you to take a stand with me.  Don’t walk out.  Instead, invite all of your parents to walk in,” he wrote. 

“This is a valuable opportunity to share with everyone who will listen, not only the outstanding work you all do for students, but also to engage in an important conversation about the challenges you face as an educator.”

East Elementary principal Amy Rhyne said the school has planned activities, and lined up about 60 volunteers to arrive early wearing red.  She doesn’t think any of her teachers will refuse to show up.

“We're supposed to be role models and I think that's kind of quitting the children for a day,” she said. “Walking out for a day doesn't help our children, doesn't help our community, and in the long run, it's actually going to hurt the school and the school system at large.”

She adds teachers who chose to opt out of working Monday won’t get in trouble, but they may be asked to sit down with the superintendent and talk about their concerns.

Judy Kidd, president of the state Classroom Teachers Association, said skipping school is not the right way to protest in a right-to-work state like North Carolina.

“You accomplish more by working for compromise in this state than by not going to work,” she said Sunday.  She said teachers have called her asking what they should do.

“I told them they should go to work,” she said. 

Kidd understands why teachers are frustrated, and said some of the new laws passed by the state legislature are going to end up driving teachers to other states.  But she doesn’t think the walk-out will have the momentum to make changes.

“I think that's a Facebook phenomenon,” she said.  “And I don't think most people should be concerned about not having a teacher in the classroom tomorrow because we're there for students, and we'll be there tomorrow for students.”

“We just hope the legislature will be there for us when we go back in January and make the necessary amendments they need to make, to keep good teachers in this state,” she added.