As a high school social studies teacher, I walk the line with my senior students each year. It’s tough. The year-long course I teach is required by my district, and it’s all about Government. Every year, I am met with the same question from my students during election season.
“Mr. Hayes, who are you going to vote for?”
Their question takes on a particular poignancy during Presidential elections. However, my answer is the same each and every year.
“I’ll tell you who I am going to vote for,” I say, scanning the room to make sure I’ve got their attention. The room is quiet; so much so that you can hear a pin drop. After making them endure an excessive pregnant pause, I continue.
“I’ll tell you who I voted for,” I continue, “after you walk across the stage, after I place your diploma in your hand. You can ask me who I’ve voted for since I’ve been registered.”
Grumbles and moans fill the classroom. I immediately address their frustration.
“You need to understand something,” I tell them. “My job is to teach you how to think, not what to think.”
I have to tell you that I take that charge very seriously. I don’t wear political buttons or t-shirts to school. I don’t put political stickers on my car. My students know which one is mine, and where I park every day. Even though it’s my First Amendment Right to do engage in that form of self-expression, I choose not to.
I do, however, have a t-shirt I wear to school on Fridays when I’m feeling particularly subversive. It reads “Danger: Educated Union Member”.
I know that my brothers, sisters and I are a danger to Governor Strickland’s opponent. Why else would that guy want to break our backs?
I know that Ted Strickland has my best interests at heart; it is my union that has educated me. Not Rupert Murdoch, not the Republican Governor’s Association, and certainly not Fox News.
Strickland’s record as Governor honors the profession I and hundreds of thousands of my brothers and sisters have chosen to spend our lives in.
I plan to honor Gov. Strickland on Tuesday by casting my vote for him.
When I walk in bright and early on Election Day, I’ll proudly wear my “Danger: Educated Union Member” t-shirt. I’m not taking that t-shirt off when I walk into my classroom, even though it’s a Tuesday. I’ll still get the same question I always do from my students. My answer to them will be the same, but I’ll be smiling when I tell them.
Brothers and sisters, Election Day is almost upon us. It is up to us to make a difference.
I know the location of my polling place, when it opens and how I’m getting there. I know which candidates are going to help me help the students I teach. Do you?
By Phil Hayes, Columbus Education Association