Parents and community were called upon to step up during the recent teacher strike in Denver
Teachers, parents, and students experienced a rollercoaster of a week in Denver during the recent teacher strike. Though the strike only lasted three days, it brought to the surface many underlying issues of the educational system in the city and state and stirred up conflict that left many of those involved physically and emotionally exhausted.
Yet - despite the significant issues being addressed at the bargaining table, it was impossible not to notice some of the most positive examples of the village mindset playing out across the city during this strike. With schools remaining open and the well-being of thousands of students at stake, the village around DPS children stepped up in important ways.
With the cancellation of all DPS preschool classes, many parents were left scrambling to find last-minute childcare. Parents who did not feel comfortable sending their children to school during a strike also needed to make alternate arrangements. A number of churches, private preschools, and local businesses stepped up to offer childcare or “strike camps” to parents looking for help. Denver Recreation Centers extended their hours to provide a safe and enriching option for older students. Parents of preschoolers partnered together to watch one another’s children when they couldn’t miss work. As teachers endured freezing temperatures on their picket lines, PTAs and other parent groups organized to provide coffee, breakfast burritos, bottled water, and hand warmers. Community members honked in support as they drove by. Many local businesses advertised their support for teachers by offering free meals, coffee, yoga classes, and more.
Inside school buildings, administrators, paraprofessionals, and other staff worked extra hard to keep things operating smoothly for their students, an especially challenging task without many teachers in the building. Breakfast and lunch continued to be served, and most before and after school programs ran as scheduled. With more than half of DPS students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, it was a high priority for school to remain open and its accompanying supports to carry on without interruption. Thanks to these extra efforts, students remained safe and cared for in their schools throughout the strike.
While the debate and bargaining around teacher compensation continued between Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and while many teachers made the difficult decision to leave their students while they participated in the strike, the village of those students stepped in. Schools with especially supportive communities were able to keep doing what they do best, as they used their systems of communication to organize support for teachers, for parents in need of backup childcare, and to stay connected with school administrators to keep a pulse on the vibe of the building and the well-being of students.
Witnessing the village mentality playing out in Denver reinforces the importance of community. It reinforces the need to support not only our own children, but the children of others within our village. It reinforces the importance of honoring the teachers in our village, as well as anybody else who may have a positive influence on the young minds of students. As the tensions of the strike wear off and as schools return to normal, we can hope that the positive benefits of the village mentality remain strong and lasting.