On Sunday, I was blissfully celebrating turning the great age of 32, and while I was finishing my birthday dinner out with my husband, a hush fell over the restaurant as those out at 10 that night were greeted with a 42″ image of Karen Lewis’ face at a podium. For those of you who may be avoiding television or anything having to do with Chicago – you should know that Karen Lewis is the President of the Chicago Teacher’s Union. She is also the person who announced that the teacher’s would indeed be striking as of 12:01 a.m, September 10, 2012.
I’m sure that cheers erupted from many children who really don’t know the magnitude of what’s at stake here. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t when I was entering second grade at William H. Ray elementary in Hyde Park (but went on to transfer THAT year to Alexander Graham Bell and graduate.) I’m sure that my seven year old self felt that I was getting an extended summer break. We stayed out of school for 19 days. That’s almost a full month lost of learning. Oh, heck, who are we kidding, that WAS a full month lost of learning. From a run of the mill second graders perspective, it was probably wonderful. From mine, it was torture. I was one of those kids who actually enjoyed school. Who looked forward to it every year (until about seventh grade – but more because of mean guys and judgmental girls than the actual learning part) and got lots of joy from counting down the days until it started. I’m confident that there still are children out there like me. Ones who are bemoaning the fact that their instructional time was indeed interrupted.
Meanwhile we have a very pompous mayor and a very pompous CTU President trying to bust each other’s chops while they hold our children hostage each day. They’re no better than the people that they are trying to both keep students from becoming or keep off the streets of Chicago. With each day that they don’t compromise, we have children losing the will to go back to school.
We have one of the largest school districts in the nation, yet we fall behind in so many areas. We did indeed have one of the shortest school days in the nation. We also had so many days off that we ended up having one of the shortest school years as well. When it was announced that we would be reverting a new longer school day (which by the way does NOT allow for more instructional time in most schools – even if it says so on paper) I was actually pleased. I felt that our children needed more focus on language arts, geography/social studies, and science. We’ll see if that actually comes to fruition.
Overall, I do think that the teachers need more to be able to do more. I think that they also have to understand that when I was a child teachers made a career out of teaching. It wasn’t something to do until you got married, had a baby and then left – which I’ve seen my share of. It was a passion, it was done with love. Now I feel that as a whole the CTU with Ms. Lewis are holding out on going back to school at the expense of our children. The very people that they work so hard to protect from the issues of the world at hand. I agree they need to be paid fairly. I also agree that you can’t always (note the use of the word always) use test scores to evaluate a teachers progress. Every child doesn’t learn at the same speed. We know this argument, we’ve heard it many times. So that child just gets passed through the grade and no real intervention happens.
When the intent to strike was filed, I had to start looking for homeschooling options for my 7th grader. He has entered the grade level that so many high schools look at grades and scores in order to decide whether they will grant him admission or not. I can’t afford for him to lose any days of education. Even if he is consistently scoring well on the ISAT’s or making the Honor Roll consistently. He’s not particularly happy that this strike isn’t providing him time to relax and just take a few days off. We don’t know if this strike will extend the length of the great strike of ’87 or go even longer. I don’t want to waste any time either. My job as his mother and his FIRST teacher is to make sure that he excels no matter what.
And I can never strike.