Adventures in Online Dating, Part 2

It’s been a little over a year that I’ve been on dating sites. If I had a nickel for every time a lady describes herself as “sassy” or “strong” or “independent” or “fluent in sarcasm” I would have enough money that supermodels would be throwing themselves at me.

Don’t get me wrong. From what I understand, guys partake in the clichés, too, usually posting old photos or photos in hats and sunglasses and featuring the corpse of some animal or fish. This is just what women have told me. They haven’t told me what things the guys say about themselves.

But anyway, these strong, sassy, independent, sarcastic women typically love anything outside, from fishing to hiking to skydiving. They’re not a one-night stand, serial dater, or friends with benefits. Where would they like to meet? Typically the answer is something like, “Anywhere we can talk and the laughter will flow. It isn’t about the place, but the person I’m with.”

Which brings me to laughter. They all want someone who’ll make them laugh. Okay. I get that. Everyone likes to laugh. It shows that you’re comfortable and having a good time. But really, it’s like they’re wanting 21-year-old Eddie Murphy to show up on this first date. I don’t know about most guys, but on a first date, I’ll be nervous and trying to impress and usually not up for making good jokes because I don’t know what she’s going to find funny. Believe it or not, some people don’t appreciate jokes about necrophilia or hobos eating warm vomit. I know, right?

So, the message here seems to be that they don’t really need a man because they are strong and independent, but if they decide to, I dunno, answer your message or actually go on a date, you better be prepared for their sassy sarcasm in a place where it’s easy to hear it, and if you don’t make them laugh on the first date, you’re benched and an MLB pitcher with a noodle for an arm. That’s no pressure.

What do y’all think? Am I wrong? Do I just suck at this online dating game? Do you have any advice?

Adventures in Online Dating, Part 1

I’m an introvert by nature. I don’t have many friends, and I don’t get out much. It isn’t that I don’t want friends or don’t want to get out and do things. I do. I get bored and lonely at home. My dogs are only so much company. I used to have friends, back in school. No, not college … kindergarten through 12th grade. Maybe being married was a barrier to making close friends. I don’t know. My point is, I don’t get out much.

I’ve been divorced for almost three years now, and was separated for a year before that. My ex-wife has been in another relationship for about two years. So, about a year ago I decided I should try to find a partner. Since I don’t go anywhere or do anything, my options were pretty much limited to the online world.

Sheesh! There are a lot of dating sites out there.

Because I can’t just pimp my books 24/7, I thought I would bring you a series of my adventures in online dating. Hopefully it’ll be funny and maybe enlightening. In this first installment, I’m going to talk about the sites I’ve been on and my experience with the platform; I’ll get into experiences with the ladies next time.

OKCupid was my first site. I still like this one, although I’ve currently deactivated my account and deleted the app. There is an endless supply of questions to answer and when you click on a potential match you get her bio and stats and can see her answers to questions. Sometimes I would have hundreds of matching answers with a lady. You get a lot of accessibility with the free account at OKCupid, but I got caught in two scams where the other party led me on for a bit, then asked for money. I didn’t give them any money. And no, that isn’t why I deleted the app … I did that when it tried to match me with a former supervisor.

Zoosk was next, I think. I like the format of this one, though I have to wonder how many of the women are really just bots. One photo and no “story” to talk about who they are and what they like makes me suspicious. My account was hacked on this site and sent out viruses to hundreds of people so it had to be closed. I just recently made a new one and this is the only site I’m currently paying for. It’s also the site where I have never gotten a response from a woman I message first. You have to pay for Zoosk to have any real experience with it; it is one of the less expensive sites.

Plenty of Fish is another one where you can do quite a bit without having to pay anything. A female friend of mine says this has been her best experience. I didn’t have much luck with it. My account is currently deactivated, but I might start it up again. I did go on one date with a woman I met here. For some reason, PoF kept matching me with women in the Casper, Wyoming, area despite me living in the Oklahoma City metro. is where I’ve invested the most money. This one is awful if you try to use it for free. You can see pictures and read bios, and it’ll tell you when someone likes you, but you’re not going to get to see that person or read any messages they send until you make with the payment. I subscribed to this one for two 6-month increments, with the last one expiring a couple of weeks ago. I’m still single, though I had a few dates from this site.

Hinge is a decent one. I’ve not paid anything here, but you can see pictures and read what the other party says about themselves in answer to some questions. You can message, but you only get to see one conversation and one like at a time with the free version. They say Hinge is the app designed to be deleted, but they still want you to commit for three months at $59.99.

eharmony says someone falls in love on their site every 14 minutes … but they want you to commit to a one-year subscription, anyway. You can’t see pictures for free. You can read about the women and see how you match up with them using eharmony’s complex algorithms, but you can’t read messages. They gave me a free 3-day trial and it was okay, but not enough to make me want to subscribe.

Facebook has a dating feature and I’ve turned it on a couple of times but, well … it was scary.

GrindR just wasn’t my cup of tea. haha Okay, my students last year suggested this one, hoping I wouldn’t know what it was, but I did and have never been on it.

I think that’s all of them. Tune in next time and I’ll talk about some of the people I’ve met and messaged (all names and identifying details will be changed or omitted, of course).

2020 Books in Review

So, I lowered my standards in 2020 and set my Goodreads reading goal at 45 instead of 50. I read 46 books, though one isn’t listed on Goodreads and therefore my list only shows 45. Eh. Whatevs. As usual, this list won’t include rereads, like The Grapes of Wrath or The Chronicles of Narnia (by the way, I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe three times). So, without further ado, here are the highlights and disappointments of my 2020 reading list.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon was one of my favorites. I’ll admit to being a sucker for a good travelogue, and this may well be the best one I’ve read. With his relationship in ruins and his job in question, the author sets off to explore the blue highways on the U.S. roadmap. He meets some extraordinary people along the way and learns a lot about himself. His philosophizing is never egregious despite multiple opportunities where he could have ranted. Yes, I would rate this about Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.

Jaws by Peter Benchley was probably the biggest disappointment of the year. After years of watching the movie, I expected greatness, but this is one of those rare instances where the movie is better than the book. The characters — all of them — are immensely unlikeable, and there’s a subplot with the mafia and the ending is pretty anticlimactic despite a nice allusion to Moby-Dick.

Black Gun, Silver Star by Art T. Burton was another disappointment. My love of Western fiction continued, but I wanted to mix in some real Old West reading, so I looked up this book about Bass Reeves, the most badass marshal in Oklahoma history. Taking nothing away from Marshal Reeves, the book mostly avoided the mythos of the man and focused on documented court cases and newspaper clippings. There were a lot of facts, but I didn’t learn much truth about the man.

One newer author I can’t get enough of is Phaedra Patrick. I read The Secrets of Love Story Bridge the week it was released and loved it, as I did her previous books. I’m sure my love of Patrick’s books have a lot to do with where I am in my own life, but her characters are very real, her plots compelling, and the endings are happy, even if sometimes bittersweet. This was a good, happy, feel-good story.

I had avoided Rick Bragg since my college days because a professor I came to hate was such a fan of All Over but the Shoutin’, which I loved. But when Audible offered his The Most They Ever Had for free, I snagged it and loved it. Bragg’s story about a textile mill in the south and the people who relied on it despite the fact it was killing them was fascinating (and the narrator was excellent).

The Most They Ever Had made me look at Bragg’s over titles and I was surprised to see he’d written a biography of the best boogie woogie piano player ever, so I dove into Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story. I loved it. It was one of my 2020 favorites, but you have to keep in mind this is Jerry Lee’s story. Bragg doesn’t go out looking for corroborating or contrary evidence. He tells the story the way Jerry Lee told it to him and pretty much the only contradictions are Bragg’s own description of the things he sees during the long process of collecting the story. If you’re interested in the roots of rock, this is a must-read.

Springfield Confidential by Mike Reiss was a huge disappointment. This book is mainly about the creation of The Simpsons TV show. I guess Reiss is better at writing jokes for cartoon characters. I could see his punchlines coming and they just weren’t funny. There were a few interesting stories about certain episodes and guest stars, but overall, I just wasn’t impressed. But hey, he’s a millionaire and I’m not, so …

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Stories from the Crematorium by Caitlin Doughty was one of the more unusual reads for me. I remember after the first chapter thinking it wasn’t what I expected, but I can’t remember now what I did expect. It turned out to be a really interesting book that made me think a lot about how we treat death in Western culture.

There were a lot of Western novels by Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, and others. Some were good, but most were just what they were … escapism fiction. There’s nothing wrong with that. None of them really stood out and as I flip from this screen to Goodreads, I can barely remember which plot went with which title.

The Blind Men and the Elephant by John Godfrey Saxe is something I should have read years ago. I knew the story, but from summaries I picked up elsewhere. This is a children’s book, written in verse and featuring pictures, but the concept is for anyone of any age who has an open mind. The theme of the book has been a cornerstone of my beliefs for a long time.

The last book I’ll go into here is Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. I would not normally go for a book by a modern preacher, but this was sent to me by a friend after we had a discussion of my upbringing and what I was told about Hell. She marked the pages she thought most relevant to that discussion, but I read the whole book and my biggest takeaway was not the part about how Gehenna was the burning garbage dump of Jerusalem, but that you take truth where you find it, and often that isn’t in a book of sacred text. The author found truth in one of those gaudy paintings of Elvis done on black velvet, among other places. This is something I have always believed but never articulated. The truth is out there, in our novels, our music, in the stillness of snow, the sunrise over the forest, the laughter of babies, and the tears at a funeral. We just have to know it when we see it.

I’ve set my goal back to 50 books for 2021. Let’s read!

Living Alone

Living alone is waking up in the morning in the middle of the bed because there is no one to bump into during the restless night. It’s breakfast for one. One plate, one cup, one fork, one knife in the sink. It’s nobody asking about your plans for the day or complaining about how long you’re in the bathroom. It’s leaving for work unkissed, knowing there will be no hug to welcome you home when the day is over.

Living alone is facing the work day knowing that there is no one who’ll care to hear about your successes or failures, about office gossip, or the hope of a raise or the fear of unemployment. It’s going to lunch and seeing couples coming together to share a sandwich while holding hands, hugging and pecking lips before parting to return to their separate careers secure in the knowledge they will share their stories over the next meal. It’s earning money but having no one who will light up at the unexpected gift you never buy.

Living alone is telling the restaurant hostess you need a table for one and seeing her try to hide the flicker of contempt or pity in her eyes before she seats you. It’s taking a book to the table so you don’t see the other diners who are maybe looking at you and thanking God for the person across the table from them. It’s looking at the book so you don’t see or hear the couples and friends and families making moments all around you. It’s eating quickly, thinking you should have just gone home and eaten the frozen dinner like you’d originally planned. It’s over tipping because the waitress’s smile seemed genuine and it’s the only one given to you all day.

Living alone is sitting in your living room as night fills the rooms of your house while the silence grows heavier and heavier until the dark and the quiet press you into the sofa with the weight of the ocean over the ruins of the Titanic. It’s lethargy and moaning desperate loneliness. It’s going to the bathroom with your cell phone in your hand in hopes that somebody somewhere will use one of the many apps you’ve downloaded to send you a text, an e-mail, a video, or a meme they thought was funny. It’s posting veiled cries for help on social media and seeing people respond with laughing emojis because no one knows you are actually in pain.

Living alone is watching action movies or horror movies or anything that is not about romance or happy people because seeing Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan falling in love isn’t escapism when every frame of film reminds you of what you do not have. It’s buying the small bags of microwave popcorn and explaining to a pair of napping dogs why the movie is good or bad. It’s avoiding movies you’ve seen with people who are no longer in your life because certain scenes will make you cry no matter how much you try to prepare for them. It’s knowing that when the film ends it will be time to face the empty bed again.

Living alone is laying in the dark, unable to sleep, thinking of all the things in your past that have led you to this moment, in this room, between these sheets with no one to talk to, no one to hold, no human scent to comfort you, no body to keep you warm, no soft snoring to let you know another person feels safe in your company. It’s wondering if the people you still love are thinking of you now or ever. It’s knowing that if you die in the night no one will care until the neighbors smell the decay of the empty husk you walked around in for so long before it finally stopped moving.

Living alone is for monsters in caves, trolls under bridges, husbands who cheat, and fathers who are absent. Living alone is for villains. Bad guys. The unloved and unwanted.

I live alone.

Call to the Hunt

I find it weird but nice that the audiobook of Call to the Hunt continues to be my bestselling title, even over the books that come from major publishers. Granted, Dear Bully and After Obsession have both been out for several years, but we’ll overlook that. haha

A couple of months ago, for reasons unknown to me, sales of the audio of Call to the Hunt spiked and it has remained my bestselling title in any format since then. When the spike first happened it was much higher on that chart than its current location. I wish I knew why. Sales have not bled over to the longer works in The Werewolf Saga, which I find kind of odd. But I’ll take it.

Back in the Saddle … for real this time

My blog has been so neglected the past two or three years. I think I’ve made one post each the last two years, both claiming that I was over a hump and ready to get back to writing. And then I didn’t. Couldn’t.

But this time I think I’m really back. In the past month I have finished a manuscript I started well over three years ago. I republished a novel for which the rights were returned to me last year. I edited that manuscript I finished, and today I finished the covers and uploaded two books to be released as paperbacks and Kindle e-books in the next week. I have another cover and manuscript nearly complete; I just need to do the back cover and fix one scene in the manuscript.

Carrie and I have talked about releasing an independently published sequel to In the Woods. I’m excited about that.

In addition to all that, You Want to Do What? Lessons I Learned as a Teacher has been finished as an audiobook and we’re just waiting for ACX to approve it. That werewolf historical romance under a pseudonym — the book I got the rights back to — has the interest of a narrator/producer for an audio version, so I think that’ll happen soon.

It’s been a busy couple of months for me and MoonHowler Press.

Of the books discussed above, only one of them will have my name on it. The others are either non-genre or outside my usual genres to the point I felt it was appropriate to use a different name.

I think I also have my first job as a freelance copy editor. I’m a little nervous about that, but also excited. I’ve been wanting to do contract writing and editing as a side gig for a while, with the hope of making it a full-time job. Yes, and get out of teaching. I love teaching, but the income is limited and there are often too many chiefs who see kids as test scores and dollar signs. But that’s way on down the line.

Right now, it just feels good to be back to writing/editing/publishing. I look forward to getting back to the novel I was writing before I sank into that pit of depression.

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Who am I?

Almost everything I know has changed since separating and then being divorced. One of the biggest issues I’ve been dealing with is depression, and that — and some of its causes — has led me to the belief that I no longer know who I am.

The depression has roots and symptoms that I’m not ready to talk about publicly, and those don’t really apply to this discussion about my loss of identity. So, for now, these are the issues on the table …

In December of last year I walked away from teaching high school. It wasn’t wholly my choice, and I didn’t mean for it to be an end to that aspect of my life. I’d changed jobs and had only been at this particular school since August. The principal and I argued a lot over the grades of students who simply refused to do any work. She wanted me to pass them, and I refused. She decided to get rid of me using bad evaluations, threats, and finally manipulating my students to speak against me. We came to the agreement I would resign. I overestimated the December job market for English teachers. In other words, I couldn’t find a job.

I finished the year teaching kindergarten for a charter school where I thought I’d been hired to teach at their new high school this fall, only to find out that no, they’re keeping me in the elementary school. I renewed my job search, applying all over the metro to every school district with an English opening, but I only got one callback, and that junior high decided on a different candidate after I did a pair of interviews.

This fall I will be teaching a blended 5th/6th grade class.

It was hard not teaching my usual AP Literature curriculum this past school year. I struggled at the high school I was at because the kids were accustomed to not having to work, so they didn’t. Then I went to kindergarten where, instead of teaching the symbolism of great novels I was trying to teach energetic, unfocused 5 year olds the sounds of letters, the name and value of coins, and how to write numbers to 100.

My identity as a teacher is, if not gone, reshaped into something that doesn’t fit me.

Then came the rejection letter for a young adult novel called Afterlife. I wrote this novel years ago and a certain editor I’m already working with promised to look at it when another book was in the editing stages. Literally, it took years before she agreed to look at it, and then she rejected it. My ego, grown fragile through the divorce and the job situation and horrible sales of my self-published books, just couldn’t take that blow.

I haven’t written since December when I separated from that high school. I can’t call it writer’s block. I don’t even sit down to try. I have an office in my new house, but I seldom bother to enter it. I simply don’t have the motivation. With that rejection letter, I was ready to give up. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Who would care? Based on the poor sales and scant reviews, hardly anybody.

A former student messaged me last week. We’d talked about writing a book together. I’m ashamed to say I kind of unloaded on her, giving her a dose of my negativity that I suspect she never even knew I was capable of. At least, I hope I never showed my students just how dark I could be. It didn’t faze her. By the end of our conversation we’d worked out the basics of a plot and agreed to try the project.

Then I talked to someone else very close to me and told her I was thinking about quitting and why. She told me exactly what I knew she would. “Why does it have to be about the money?” she demanded. “Why can’t you just do it because you love it? I love to sing and dance, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop singing and dancing because nobody’s paying me to do it.”

Today the mother-in-law of that first student messaged me; she’s a former co-worker of mine, too. She’s also been looking for teaching jobs and sharing the listings she finds with me. I told her today I’m staying where I am. She suggested I sell my lesson plans on Teachers Pay Teachers, and … once again I let the depression out of the bag and explained nobody would buy my lesson plans because I barely plan lessons. I come to class with topics to discuss and if the students haven’t read, I’m wrecked because I suddenly have nothing. Then she started talking about my book about teaching, You Want to Do What? and how she loved it. I don’t know. It was nice to hear her praise and encouragement. The book hasn’t sold well despite a decent first week and my most aggressive marketing campaign.

So, who am I? I don’t know. Not a high school English teacher, and that alone is hard to get my head around. Can I be effective at the elementary level? I don’t know. Am I going to be the best-selling author I’ve dreamed of becoming since the mid-1980s? No, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Can I accept the fact I’m likely going to have to self-publish pretty much everything I write for what seems to be a dwindling fan base and keep writing anyway? On that, we’ll have to wait and see, but I do feel a little of the old spark. I’m re-reading my most recent incomplete manuscript and a couple of shorter things under one of my pseudonyms, so we’ll see.

The fact I wrote this post, only my second this year, is a good start, I think.

Books of 2018

I once again failed to meet my goal of reading 50 books last year. I managed 44 books with a total of 11,604 pages, which is actually more pages than 2017 when I read 47 books. But it’s still a failure. Oh well. It’s a new year.

Here are the highs and lows of 2018’s reading list, starting with the bad. I didn’t bother to finish anything so bad I only gave it one star, but I had a few 2-star reviews. A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee leads that list because I just didn’t care about any of the characters. Then there was Larry McMurtry’s Leaving Cheyenne, which just droned on and on and changed points of view three times as the central character become more and more unlikable. Richard Bach’s One was a major disappointment despite hitting one of my favorite themes. The story just wasn’t believable and, honestly, Bach came off as a self-absorbed snob.

I gave three books 3-star reviews, the most recent of those being Robert Bloch’s Psycho. It might have been different if I’d never seen Hitchcock’s movie, but since the movie followed the book pretty much exactly, the book was kind of boring. The other two were Louis L’Amour westerns, The Quick and the Dead and Rivers West. They were decent, in a Saturday matinee kind of way, but not spectacular.

Seventeen books got 4-star reviews; to be fair, some were rereads and I’m going to mention them here. The best of the lot here was Steffen Piper’s Greyhound, which had a few flaws, but gave me one helluva book hangover and is part of the reason I didn’t hit my goal of 50 books. I simply didn’t want to read anything else after this story. Also on this list are two by Phaedra Patrick, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper and Rise and Shine Benedict Stone. I really liked both of these, with Arthur Pepper being just a little better than Benedict Stone. But I’ll be looking for Patrick’s next book. Naomi Alderman’s The Liar’s Gospel was an interesting read, looking at the life of Jesus from various unrecorded viewpoints. I also read John Steinbeck’s The Wayward Bus for the first time and rated it here; it’s no The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden, but it was pretty good. There were some westerns and others, but these are the highlights.

There were fourteen 5-star reviews and, well, eleven of those are rereads. So let’s look at those other three. I may have a new favorite living author in Nina George. I loved loved loved The Little Paris Bookshop and couldn’t wait to read The Little French Bistro. Both were excellent, though I’d give the Bookshop the upper hand. Her use of language, even translated into English, is masterful and her characters are very real. If you haven’t read her, you should. And finally, there was one of the best biographies I have ever read in Robert Hilburn’s Johnny Cash: The Life. I came away feeling as if Cash was a close personal friend. The depth of this book is just amazing, covering The Man in Black’s life from beginning to end, not pulling any punches. If you think you know Cash from the movie Walk the Line, you are so wrong. There’s a lot more, as he was a very, very complex man.

That’s it. Happy reading in 2019!

Getting back on track

Here it is December and I’ve only made one blog post all year. It’s been an eventful year in my personal life. I’m not going to go into details here because, honestly, most of it is personal and nobody else’s business. But for the couple of you who may care …

After 32 years of marriage, my wife and I separated last year. The divorce became final this past October. I moved into an apartment following the separation and lived there for a year. About a month ago I started the process of buying a house and actually closed and began moving in about a week ago. I stayed in the OKC metro to be close to my kids. Kim and I are getting along and have vowed to remain friends despite the divorce. She helped me move. It’s been hard living alone and coming to terms with the fact that she was more right than I liked to admit about me not being a good husband … or father.

The separation caused the biggest writer’s block I’ve ever experienced. In eight months I wrote a total of eight pages. I finally just abandoned the two projects I was working on, another Western that was about half finished, and a contemporary romance that was probably four-fifths complete. I started something else completely different and am happy to say I’m back on track and writing fairly regularly again.

I also left the high school where I worked for 12 years. The superintendent there at first supported teachers in the walk-out back in the spring, then sold us out and ordered us back to work, claiming to have board approval when he did not. About 100 teachers left the district over that. Not all of them went on the TV news to talk about how we were betrayed. That was me. I have a bad habit of burning bridges. I went to another metro high school, and I’ve been extremely unhappy there.

I’m reading a lot about book promotion, trying to understand why my books don’t sell more. According to what I’ve read, with the number of books I have out, I should be able to support myself with writing. But I can’t. Maybe my books just suck. During the writer’s block, I seriously thought about just giving it up.

Bottom line, I intend to start blogging again. Maybe doing some videos or podcast-type things. But I don’t want it all to be, “Buy my books!” I’m still thinking about a platform that I can sustain that might interest somebody. Any suggestions?

Walking Out: A Teacher’s Perspective

Tomorrow morning I’ll join many of my colleagues in voting yes to walk off my job as a teacher on April 2nd. It’s a vote that comes with a lot of anger, a lot of concern for my students, and a lot of fear for my own future.

Today our district superintendent laid out what will happen in terms of our salaries if this walkout drags on for an extended period. It isn’t pretty, folks. In terms of salary, there’s a cutoff date and if the walkout goes beyond that, teachers won’t get 1/6 of their annual salary. Typically, that means two months’ pay at the end of June. With Oklahoma teachers being the lowest paid in the nation, it isn’t hard to guess that most of us do not have the savings to survive a summer without a paycheck.

If the Oklahoma Legislature refuses to raise the GPT to fund teacher pay raises and return the money taken from education over the past several years, many teachers will be forced to take other jobs or leave the state as the walkout continues. It’s something that’s already happening way too often, but it’s one thing to limp along with a little money and another thing to suddenly face a total lack of income (except for the 2nd and 3rd jobs many of us already have). Oklahoma’s GPT, by the way, is the lowest in the region, about half of Texas’ GPT … Texas, where teachers earn about $20,000 per year more than in Oklahoma. It’s not going to hurt the big oil companies to pay more taxes for drilling here.

Salary issues aside, what about the students? Will my students miss out on taking their Advanced Placement tests in May? If teachers are out for a while, will the students be adequately prepared for those tests? What about the kids who rely on school for two meals a day? The ones who need a teacher or counselor to turn to when home life is bad? What about sports? Band and choir concerts? Prom? Graduation? Can parents afford to pay more for childcare when school isn’t in session? What trouble might bored teenagers find with extra time out of class?

One of our state representatives has already said the teacher walkout is “extortion.” The students Rep. Coody said this to responded well, hitting several important issues, such as unqualified people teaching our students as qualified teachers flee the profession or the state, the lack of supplies, overcrowded classrooms, etc. The students understand we are not abandoning them. They work every day with books missing covers and pages, watching YouTube videos of science experiments because they don’t have lab supplies to actually do the experiments, and trying to get the most from their class periods when there are 35+ students in a room designed to hold 25. Our students support us. They know we’re not the greedy people the legislators are already making us out to be.

Already the Oklahoma lawmakers are acting to punish teachers with recent bills passed through committees. In one instance, violent students who have assaulted teachers will be allowed to return to school, putting teachers, staff, and their fellow students in danger. HB 3539 seeks to eliminate minimum teacher salaries and annual step increases under the guise of allowing districts to compete for the best teachers. However, districts can already pay more than the state minimum, so in reality the bill simply gives districts a reason to do away with step increases, which typically are about $200 per year. Another bill limits the time period teachers can look for employment in other districts, threatening to revoke teaching certificates if teachers resign after June 15.

Hopefully the parents — the Oklahoma voters — understand all this. Hopefully they will join teachers on April 2nd at the State Capitol. Hopefully they will call their representatives and senators and demand that lawmakers give teachers their first pay raise in 10 years and restore education funding.

Failure to act together as a state right now will likely mean a very long-term failure as our education system continues to crumble and Oklahoma students fall further and further behind their peers in our country.