Raise your hand if you feel that the first week of April here in Oklahoma was a surreal swirl of Crazytown.
Oh, good. I’m not the only one.
In case you just crawled out of Robbers Cave for the first time in a week, the news around town is that the teachers of the state of Oklahoma have taken a courageous stand and left their classrooms. Monday through Friday last week they gathered at the Oklahoma State Capitol by the tens of thousands and boldly told legislators that our state needs to make education a priority. Next week they will continue their march.
I have mad respect for Oklahoma’s teachers. They love our kids, MY kids, so much that they’ll risk the security of their (under-paid) jobs to march every day for money to help my kids be the best they can be. As a parent, I feel it’s my responsibility to advocate for my kids’ education alongside their teachers. That’s why you’ll find my family at the Capitol, too.
I have four boys, aged seven and younger, and we all marched four of the five days last week. We’ll be there again on Monday. I take my boys because I want them to see how hard people are fighting for them and their futures. I want them to see democracy and peaceful protesting in action. I want them to see the love of 30,000 teachers all in one place.
The Capitol is where it’s at.
I hope you’ll consider this experience for your family. It’s a civics lesson, a parade, an opportunity to see friends and teachers, and outdoor time all rolled into one! Here are some things I learned in my four days there:
1. The timing is flexible.
The outdoor activities go most of the day, including music, marching bands, and motivational speakers. Depending on nap-time needs and lunch, we arrived as early as 10:00 a.m. and as late as 2:00 p.m. There was always plenty to do!
2. Park in the neighborhood southeast of the Capitol.
It’s free, easy to access, and appears to be safe. We’ve found a spot in the streets between Lincoln Blvd. and Lindsay Ave., between 17th and 19th streets, every day we have gone. Even with littles, the walk is less than ten minutes.
3. Consider wheels for the kids.
Our setup is a double stroller that holds my younger two, and my six-year-old alternately walks and hitches rides on the front. My seven-year-old brings his scooter. I’ve seen kids on roller-blades and in wagons. Some of the march winds through the grassy area behind the Capitol, but every stroller I’ve seen seems able to manage it.
4. Don’t forget your essentials.
There isn’t a ton of food for sale, so I recommend bringing snacks. However, there are plenty of people passing out free waters, granola bars, cookies, and suckers, so if you totally forget, don’t panic! Your Mary-Poppins bag shouldn’t be too heavy, but don’t forget sunscreen, chapstick, and wipes. Always bring the wipes.
5. Make signs.
As you’ll quickly learn, it’s part of the fun! I’ve never seen so many hilarious signs in one place! We chose to make our signs personalized to our specific teachers. We paid homage to the movie Dead Poets Society and personally named our beloved teachers. Bonus: when you find your teachers at the march, they’ll get teary, give ginormous hugs, and you have yourself an adorable photo op.
6. Don’t forget to march!
Grab your littles and jump in the slow-moving line that circles the entire Capitol. Watch for dressed-up characters like clowns, Elsa, and T-Rex. See if you can spot Mary Fallin’s parking spot (you’ll march right by it!), and stop the kiddos at the back of the Capitol where people wave their posters at the highway overpass. There you’ll hear the sounds of continual friendly honking from motorists passing below!
If I can do this, you can do this! The atmosphere is fun and family-friendly. You’ll see kids and teachers everywhere, all of one mind, trying to make our state a better place. Your family will remember the day that you participated in the march that helped fund education for our state.