In an op-ed in May 2016, I begged to ask the question: “Which part of this teacher’s day would you cut?”
I waxed philosophical about the virtues, workload and expectations of my fellow teachers and me, while asking what our upcoming legislative session was going to do for education. I ended my article by inviting any elected official to come and visit my classroom. Funny thing about that, nobody expressed an interest. I threw a little party, and none of my invitees showed up.
Well, you are certainly busy. I get it. Aside from our looming budgetary crises, you were working hard to see that teacher tenure meant nothing, RIFs could reign supreme, transfers could occur at any time in the school year and PEIA was almost shut down. Shew! That makes for busy times. (And let’s not even talk about that silly thing called “climate change” in the science curriculum, or Common Core.)
I guess I can see why you never had the chance to visit my classroom and taste the real “teacher life.” So, I thought, if you won’t come to my party, perhaps I can come to yours?
I formally announced my pre-candidacy status on July 1 to run for House of Delegates in District 14, which encompasses a small corner of northwestern Putnam County and the southern half of Mason County, including Point Pleasant. Hey, I did allude to the belief that those making decisions about our education system should somehow be steeped in education.
I’m passionate. I’m willing to read, do, learn and research anything asked of me. (Remember that I have those three master’s endorsements to boost my pay?) In addition to that, I’m willing to do something — thanks to my teaching career — that bet many people simply don’t do: listen.
I plan to listen to those I want to serve. I want to hear all sides. My family taught me that there are at least three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. If I plan to serve to the best of my abilities, it seems the best way to start out is by actively listening to both the people I serve and my future constituents.
Recently, I was lucky enough to attend the District 2 West Virginia Democratic Women Meeting where I had the privilege of hearing Treasurer John Perdue speak. What he said resonated with me deeply. People don’t want to know what you’re against. People want to know what you’re for. It’s not suitable to be against my opponent, against an ideology, against a group of people. It’s far more productive to be for ideas, changes, listening, and cooperation.
Cooperation? With everyone? With everyone. Something else my family bestowed upon me is that every person I meet has a lesson to teach me. Everyone is an expert at something. It will only be through listening and cooperation that I can learn just how to turn things around not only for West Virginia’s students and teachers, but for our entire state. Cooperation is seen as the buzzword for every successful business, philanthropic group and educational trend; but it’s seen as an aberration when it is introduced in the political realm.
I believe that for our Legislature to succeed, we must be willing to do what is not being done currently on the national stage: cooperate and compromise.
Everyone will not get their way every time, but surely there is a better way to do things than we’ve been doing? Why do we ignore the person to our left or right because they have one or two beliefs that differ vastly from our own, yet become offended when they will not hear us out? Why do we seek to know a person’s political affiliation before even thinking about listening to them?
If you put down the guards and simply listen, you have nothing to lose; but you have everything to gain. And last time I checked, West Virginia needs that.
So, in Jan. 2018, I will file my official candidacy papers and I will make a go of running for the house seat in my district. People have asked me what I will do if I lose. I’m not going to. You see, winning the seat will be the cherry on top of an entire sundae of, as Charlie Sheen would say, “Winning!”
In less than a month, I have already met some of the best people. Imagine how many more I stand to meet. I have learned exponentially. And my students are going to be afforded a most valuable learning experience by being there when their teacher runs for public office. They will see that there are people willing to go beyond opining for change, who will work to embody the change they wish to see. Nothing in that spells “loser” in my book.
So, the offer is still open. I started back to work Aug. 14. Stop by and sample a day of “The Teacher Life.” But if not, maybe I can come and sample 60 days of the “Legislative Life.”
Brianne Solomon, of Culloden, is the Fine Art Department chairwoman at Hannan Jr. Sr. High School in Mason County, treasurer of the WV Dance Education Organization and a member of the board of directors of the WV Dance Company.