“Oh, I admire what you all have done so much!”
“We really support you. 55 Strong!”
“Thank you for standing up for us.”
No. Don’t thank me.
I haven’t done that much.
I read the news. I share the news. I follow a couple of twitter accounts. I dress up and make a bunch of noise to get people to pay attention to the news. No, I really don’t think that I’ve done anything that special. I’ve only done what I know I had to do in the only ways I know how.
First and foremost, there are people who have done so much more than I have in this struggle over the past two years . At times I have definitely felt like I was not doing enough, but I’ve also felt like I’m doing everything that I can. Luckily, in our discussions as a caucus and in the unions, it’s been made clear that this is a team effort, and on the team everybody plays a role. Everyone brings their own unique talents, their own unique skills, and we put those to use.
What that means for you is that there is a way that you can help.
I realize that with a lot of what goes on in Charleston, and in your local communities, you see a lot of the name faces. You probably wonder, “how in the world do they have the time to do all of that?”
Honestly, Mitch Carmichael and Craig Blair wonder the same thing.
The truth is that a lot of us don’t have the time, but we feel like we have to make it. I don’t say this as a way of trying to get praise for our sacrifices; I say this as a call for you.
Yes, YOU--the person sitting in your pajamas, drinking your coffee and reading this waiting for the school year to start. Or maybe you're sitting in a professional development, ignoring something that you’ve learned three times already while you read this blog. (Try not to chuckle out loud. You might get in trouble.)
You see, our efforts are not that different from teaching a lesson: small pieces of instruction build toward the final objective. What you feel like might be something small and insignificant to our fight, does actually help. Those small acts add up.
Every red shirt sitting in the gallery.
Every red shirt standing outside the capitol, holding a sign.
Every red shirt worn to work, to remind your bosses of your power.
But yes, there is a lot more to it than just showing up. We need people talking to other people, sharing information, and doing what we do best: educating.
So when you look at me, or you look at any other person who is out there every time there is an event, and you say “thank you,” while appreciated, that's not what we want.
Because if this is a lesson, and activism and organizing is like in my classroom, when I finish the lesson, I don’t want to be thanked. I want the folks around me to pick up what they’ve learned from me and carry on with it.
The honest truth is that this is a new reality for all of us. And when it comes to this advocacy work we have been doing as West Virginia educators since 2018, I barely know what the hell I’m doing. But I am, however, trying. And I keep trying. And in that trying, I am learning.
Hopefully you are too.
So don’t thank me. Don’t praise me or admire me. Instead, show me what you’ve learned.
(And please, Lord, let it be more than wearing food costumes)
Adam Culver is an English teacher in Cabell County and Vice-President of the Cabell County Educators Association as well as a member of The WV United Caucus. He is also a sometimes comedian and a lifelong Mountaineer who recently escaped Ohio.