On being a CPS parent & siding with the striking teachers
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I’m a graduate of Chicago public schools. So is my husband. We’re old enough to remember the last time there was a strike. Here’s the thing about all the “Kids won’t learn as much” rhetoric. It’s only the second week of school. They aren’t missing a year at this point. It’s one day. And even if this strike lasts a few weeks, guess what? Kids miss school for holidays, illness, & natural disasters. They catch up. Hell, if parents have the time & access a strike can be a learning opportunity. Hell any break is a good time for some one on one propping up of skills in areas where your child struggles. Kid #1 and I are discussing politics & current events a lot. There’ll be some in depth discussion of history while we’re at it so he can understand how things got to this point. Kid #2 is working on his handwriting & we’ll talk about being flexible when it comes to new experiences & there’ll be reading practice with picket signs. Because that’s how we roll. And I get that there are real concerns about safety & meals for a lot of kids. That my husband & I are fortunate to have family support that makes it easier for us to get through this strike.
Do I wish that things could have been resolved without a strike? Sure. But I am well aware that teachers are looking down the barrel of long days with huge class sizes & requirements to teach to a goal of higher scores on standardized test instead of to student needs and abilities. I am aware that promised raises didn’t happen, and that teachers are spending significant amounts of money out of their own pockets every year. So are parents. And still our kids aren’t getting art, music, library, or computer classes in a lot of these neighborhoods. I am aware that my kids aren’t getting the same amount of time or attention that I got as a Chicago student. In the 80’s & 90’s we thought classrooms with 30 kids was a lot. Some schools are now looking at classes approaching 40 kids to one teacher. I can’t fault the teachers for being less successful when they’re trying to wrangle 35+ 5th graders (all at different levels of ability) into listening to a 50 minute lesson from a workbook that might or might not be recent. That might or might not be effective at teaching the skills the kids will need after testing.
Mind you, I don’t deny that there are problem teachers. My aunt was a turn around principal with CPS for years & the stories she told us about some of the teachers under her would curl your hair. But, tying pay and employment to test scores doesn’t address that problem at all. It’s telling that the board isn’t concerned with ways to get rid of abusive teachers, only with ways to punish teachers for not producing standardized outputs from individuals. The rhetoric around all of this has been about what’s best for the kids. I don’t believe that longer school days and higher test scores are all it takes for my child to have a quality education. I want my sons to have recess, art, music, & a curriculum that gives them room to develop their individual talents. Only one side of this discussion has ever said anything about kids being people with needs & that side is not the board or the mayor. I hear teachers talking about kids as people with needs & so I side with them. For the sake of kids like me, kids like my sons, and for the future.