I’d like to think that, despite whatever disagreements we might have, in the end, we can all be adults about it. I know the Tweeter-in-Chief has made civility a much more difficult proposition, but in the words of that Superfan saint and great philosopher Mike Ditka, “This too shall pass.”
The happy truth is, for 13 years, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of readers who’ve respectfully disagreed with me in person. It’s one of the best parts of the gig. And my favorite instance of this phenomenon occurred immediately after the Geneva, Illinois, School Board and teacher’s union narrowly averted a 2012 strike.
I’d written a number of columns on the subject, the central thesis being, since D304 did not renegotiate their contract downward during the Great Recession as most districts did, the teachers should take that good will into account during the stalled negotiations.
It’s a rather simple argument.
So, when my wife left me unsupervised at the conclusion of our ensuing Geneva High School parent-teacher conferences and a teacher asked if I was Jeff Ward, I was a little apprehensive. But upon the appropriate admission, he said, “I don’t agree with what you wrote about the possible strike, but it was a fair and well-reasoned argument. I generally like reading your stuff.”
Five minutes later, another teacher approached me to say the same thing.
Not only did those interactions greatly enhance my estimation of Geneva teachers, but I left that building walking on air. That’s exactly how it should be, and particularly when it comes to teachers, right? At least that’s what we’d like to think.
But before we continue with our main contention, let me further set the stage.
I know this will completely ruin my reputation, but another one of my favorite endeavors is my morning dog walk. I may, at times, have a little fun with my Fisher Farms compatriots, but the truth is, after 19 years of two-mile walks with the pups every morning, I’ve come to know almost every dog walker, runner, and many of the Heartland Elementary moms who regularly escort their children to school, dog leash firmly in hand.
Even the crossing guard and I wave at each other, and he does it with more than one finger, too! Unless it’s monsooning or polar vortexing, I don’t miss a day, but I kinda wish I missed last Friday.
As I made the turn into the back of Heartland Elementary for the likely 6,664th time, a teacher, who’d clearly been waiting for me, leapt out a side door and, completely ignoring my hearty “good morning,” launched into a bizarre and rather loud tirade about children arriving with dog allergies.
It was one of those strange situations where you wonder if you’re still in bed dreaming and you start to question if it’s actually happening. My dogs were looking at me as if to say, “What the bleep is her problem?”
I fully expected her to order me to stop walking the critters through the school and that would be the end of it, but it never happened. Instead, she simply continued with her entirely bizarre verbal assault. I wanted to ask her why I was being singled out among the dozens of parents walking their dogs to school that day, and why it was suddenly a problem after 19 years. But when you consider the Geneva Police tendency to arrest me for breathing, and the NFL irony that it’s always the guy who responds to an indignity that draws the flag, I simply said “OK” and walked on.
Suddenly lacking my legendary keen perception of the obvious, I asked my wife what she thought of the one-sided confrontation. Without missing a beat, she responded, “Ummm, Mr. journalist! Don’t you remember writing extensively about the 2018 teacher’s strike? I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before.”
But I thought “no!” My opinion columnist persona may, on occasion, present quite the ego, but the truth is, if you asked 20 random Genevans who Jeff Ward is, only one would respond affirmatively.
But I shoulda listened to my wife (please don’t tell her that), because when I vented about the incident on Facebook by applying my trademark sarcasm and hyperbole, word quickly got back to me that those Heartland teachers bitterly complained to the Principal about it. And how would they know to go to my Facebook page unless they knew who I was and they knew I’d likely react?
Only a Geneva teacher could go from attacker to victim in ten short seconds.
Though I’m getting tired of being publicly confronted and I’m taking the necessary, and fully legal, countermeasures to make it a far less enticing option, I’m not nearly worried about me. As my favorite attorney likes to say, “Jeff, you tend to ‘confront’ people in print, and since we’ve all become delicate flowers, some of them will confront you in public.”
That’s as good an explanation as any.
What I am worried about are all the other folks who’ve had to endure the teachers’ and their rabid supporters’ post-strike wrath, because I’ve heard all the stories. I know board member Mike McCormick’s children were bullied by other children in this regard and his family isn’t the nearly the only one. Virtually every other board member can recount multiple personal teacher incidents like mine, and now some board members are questioning if it’s really worth serving. Parents who supported the board’s strike position are still being targeted by these educators, their union, and their supporters.
It a far cry from 2012, isn’t it?
All I can say is, it’s utterly beyond the pale that the individuals tasked with preventing bullying in its earliest stages have no problem doing it themselves. To be clear, I’m not indicting every single Geneva teacher, but if I know about these incidents, trust me, they do, too. And their complicity through silence is worse than if they were an active participant.
Since some of us clearly can’t behave like adults, I’ll simply adjust my dog walk so this won’t happen again. And I’m even more ecstatic that my sons are well beyond D304’s grasp. To be fair, Geneva has some magnificent teachers, administrators and support staff (I named many in a previous column), but as a whole, it’s a mediocre school district fraught with the most massive teacher entitlement mentality I’ve ever seen.
To wit, 90 percent of D304 educators wouldn’t last two weeks in East Aurora where my wife’s taught for five years.
Lastly, for those considering a move to Geneva for the schools, considering what I’ve seen in the last year, I’d seriously reconsider it.