Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chicago Teacher's Union Strike/ Rally at Union Square Park

Chicago Teacher's Union Rally
September 15, 2012
Union Square Park

I'm not going to get too political here. But I do want to share some photos from the rally today, and play a role in spreading this discussion; starting with this sign outside of Union Square Park. A little ironic when the city is so torn huh?

My deal:
I attended a Chicago Public School from kindergarten through 8th grade. I had 45 fellow students in my first grade class, with one teacher. I later sat at my desk and tried to learn in our 100 degree classroom. The "art class" we had consisted of a lady walking around room to room with a basket full of crayons and safety scissors. We used text books from the 1970's (in the 1990's). And filled in those little bubbles that determined our futures. I'm not a CPS teacher, but I was a CPS student, andwritten here is not a part of a speech, or some heavy pro-union propaganda. What I wrote was simply first hand experience. And sadly, not a lot has changed.

 My disclaimer: With this issue, as with many, I think its critical to appreciate that we all come from different experiences, backgrounds and circumstances that are sure to sway our viewpoints and how we go about expressing them. But that does not mean you have to agree or even continue the discussion with someone (or continue reading). If it upsets you past tolerance, the person is not willing to have an intelligent debate or if prejudice enters the situation, its ok to walk away. It's not conceding to the other viewpoint, its you keeping your sanity. I tend to be the kind of person who is stubborn or likes to "stand my ground", but I found that it's just not worth it in many situations. So here I have my opinions, and only my opinions.

 My husband works with a non-profit organization that puts teaching artists in schools, and does the research to prove arts integration is a positive tool in learning. He checks in on schools from the far north-side (neighborhoods and schools that tend to have more money) to the far south-side where discrimination is rampant and funding is non-existent. He sees the best and worst CPS schools have to offer. In his experience the best tends to be the teachers (though there are always exceptions) and the worst tends to be the learning environment/ wide.

These ladies are a couple of CPS teachers that Joey has known from one of the schools he works in. We chatted with them and got their take on things. I've talked to many people about this topic since it's a "hot button" issue and effects everyone in this city to some degree... and the varying opinions and views are fascinating.

The first thing you hear from any teacher on strike, is that they're tired. They mean this literally, since they start picketing very early and go far into the evening. But I'm more interested in the figurative sense and what they're implying. I think it's pretty well understood that they're tired of unfair pay, benefits and working conditions. But what seems to get underscored by popular media is that they're tired of their students having to deal with poor learning environments, unfair testing and lack of funding. These issues, striking teachers tell us, are the most important and are what's keeping them on the picket lines. In this process, the teachers are being villainized, and personally I don't think that's fair. With that being said, I've spoken with parents of school aged children, some of which exclaim that they see themselves as "super liberal and usually pro-protest", but are frustrated and torn in their beliefs of this situation. They're having trouble working when childcare is so expensive and not ready available for the children of the 600 some CPS schools. The situation sucks, either way. But saying the teachers are turning their backs on their students? Well that just bullshit.

 I'm not going to rant anymore. I just want to end with this... 

The kids deserve the best education there is. No one can argue this.

I think it's easy for us as adults to get on our soap boxes and cloud issues with our own baggage. So I vote for the kids. I vote that they get the texts books, air conditioning and fair assessment that the teachers and many parents are asking for.

And lastly I vote that no matter the stance we take...please Chicago (and others) remember that these teachers on strike are just that...people. They're neighbors, brothers, aunts, parents and the majority of them aren't evil. So lets not pin them all as such for fighting for fairness and fighting for their students, huh? (A little Uncle Jesse got in me there...)

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