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L.A. Student Reporter Discusses Ongoing Teachers' Strike


The teachers' strike affects about half a million students of LA public schools, and one of them is high school senior Carmen Gonzalez. She's a reporter for Boyle Heights Beat, a student-run newspaper in Los Angeles. I first met her on a reporting trip there last month. And she's now covering the strike with a team of young journalists. Hi, Carmen. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

CARMEN GONZALEZ: Hello. Thank you for having me back.

SHAPIRO: So tell me about the scene at your school, Mendez High School, where you've reported that 10 percent of students showed up yesterday.

GONZALEZ: Yeah. I was on the picket line with the teachers when they announced that 106 students out of 1,045 students showed up. They were split up into grades. The seniors were in the library, and then every other grade was in the gym.

SHAPIRO: You're saying that because there were so few teachers, the students who did show up were just clumped together with the few administrators and substitute teachers that were there. What kinds of activities were they doing? Were they actually learning?

GONZALEZ: For the seniors, they were being taught economics, which kind of sucks because a lot of them were actually taking AP Government, so we're not even learning (laughter) about anything about economics. And then everyone else was being taught union history, what unions are and the history it has here in the U.S.

SHAPIRO: What were students told about whether they were expected to be in class, what would happen to them if they marched with teachers, those sorts of things?

GONZALEZ: For the most part, administration was very clear what was happening. If it happens, this is the schedule. Here are papers. Take it to your parents, explain it to them. Of course, they couldn't tell us to come or not. But if we did, they told us that breakfast and lunch would be provided and that we would be learning as much as we could with the resources that we had.

SHAPIRO: This is your first experience with a large-scale strike. You live in Boyle Heights, which is a neighborhood with a long history of political activism, including labor activism. What's this like for you?

GONZALEZ: It didn't hit me until I got home yesterday after the strike. I was like, oh, wow. Like, this is serious. Like, they're literally giving up their jobs to, like, fight for us. That - that's what they're saying. They're striking for the students. And I sat at the table with my teachers because a mother nearby opened her home for some heat and some food. And they were all just talking, and we were all laughing. And I was like, wow. Like, it seems like it's going to be a long, long journey. But I kind of felt proud that I was there reporting on it.

SHAPIRO: Did it make you start to see your teachers differently who have always just been, like, the instructor, the educator at the front of the classroom?

GONZALEZ: Yes, totally. Like, I still call them Miss and Doctor and Mister. But they would joke around. They would tell me, ay (ph), lead a chant if you want. And I would be like, no, I kind of want to record it. I can't really lead the chant.

SHAPIRO: You're here to report.

GONZALEZ: Yes, I'm here to report. I was like, I can't really be out there getting my voice heard. But they were very proud when they saw me get off of the metro, walking towards school. They were like, oh, you're here to support. And I was like, yeah, I'm here to take some pictures, record some audio, see what's up.

SHAPIRO: You're a senior, so this is your last semester before you graduate. What's it like to have the homestretch of your high school education disrupted by this big walkout?

GONZALEZ: It's a little annoying. Like, I understand why it's happening and everything. But it's like, they're supposed to put on sale the prom tickets, grad night tickets. We're supposed to have meetings about, like, graduation. This is where it's going to be at. This is the rules for it. Counselors are supposed to go over with their students about, like, OK, you're missing these credits. So it's a little, like, alarming because we don't know how long it's going to be and how long it's going to take to start picking up when they come back. It just throws everyone off schedule. It's a little annoying.

SHAPIRO: Carmen Gonzalez, thanks so much for talking with us today.

GONZALEZ: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: She is a student reporter with Boyle Heights Beat in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF COLO'S "GHANA (ORIGINAL MIX)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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