Strike!

Since as far back as I can remember there have always been debates about how much teachers should make, how underpaid they are for as much work as they do, and how often they are blamed for everything. In telling people that I want to be a high school English teacher, I am more often given a bad remark about teaching back. “Are you sure?” “Aren’t you just asking for it?” “You couldn’t pay me to go back to high school!” “Teenagers? You’re crazy!” I’m sure we have all heard these remarks at one point. I haven’t even started teaching and I’m already not being supported by a lot of people. This idea of not being supported and not being respected is some of the driving forces behind the teachers who have gone on strike in Chicago this week.

In the article, “Teachers’ Strike in Chicago Test Mayor and Union”, that appeared in The New York Times, it talks about what has led 350,000 students to be without teachers this week. This week, thousands of teachers went on strike, the first in twenty-five years for Chicago. Negotiations have gone on this week between Chicago Public Schools officials and leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union to resolve this issue. This strike has gained a lot of support in other cities giving a “glimpse at a mounting national struggle over unionized teachers’ pay, conditions, benefits and standing” (Rich 1). This topic has even reached presidential candidate Mitt Romney who released a statement saying, “Teachers’ unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet” (1).

Issues at debate besides the obvious salary increase and teacher benefits are “how to evaluate teachers and whether teaching openings should automatically go to laid-off teachers” (1). The New York Times reports that the average teacher in Chicago makes $76,000 a year.

This caught my attention because I have heard more and more about teachers being upset about teacher evaluations that weigh so heavily on student test scores. This, and all the issues raised in this strike, are all issues that are applicable to teachers all over the country. What the teachers in Chicago are fighting for are what teachers all over the country fight for everyday, except they still do their job. I understand the importance of the issues and what these teachers are trying to do but I cannot help but think of the students in this case. Coming off of a three month summer vacation, these teachers are starting the year off on the wrong foot. Teachers constantly preach that they want the support of parents, but in putting 350,000 students out of the classroom, they are not getting on parents good side. Where are all these students supposed to go? Parents work, summer camps and programs are over, and college babysitters are back in school.  These parents, especially those with young children, are being forced to call out of work themselves and as a result losing pay. What is most scary for these parents is that they have no idea how long they are going to have to find an alternative for their children. As this strike gains support across the nation, parents across the country are forced to ask themselves if this could happen to them and what would they do?

As much as this strike is supposed to hopefully bring about much needed change you can’t help but wonder about the chaos it is currently causing…and for how long?

 

-Jessica Dick

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Strike!

  1. Great post, Jessica! I want to add one more detail about the strike that is often overlooked in media coverage. One key element that the teachers are objecting to is the lengthening of the school day without being paid for it. Policymakers are quick to blame unions and teachers for the effects this will have on schoolchildren, but is it fair to ask anyone to work longer hours without pay?

    AM

  2. In response to what Jessica has said about “how to evaluate teachers and whether teaching openings should automatically go to laid-off teachers” (1). The teachers in Chicago are already being evaluated on their performance of a standardized test by 20%. The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, wants to bump that up to 40%. Not every grade level has a standardized test, therefore is fair to say that because a tenth grade teacher’s students do not perform up to par that is ONLY that teachers fault? Or should they be re-examining the whole curriculum in Chicago? Did the student not have any other teachers before him or her? Also a child’s home life plays a crucial part in each child’s performance in school.

    In response to teacher openings AUTOMATICALLY going to laid-off teachers, I believe that is unfair. Just because a teacher has been laid-off does not mean that they deserve the job over a new applicant. The question that should be asked is “who is better qualified for the position?” If it is the teacher that has been previously laid-off, then they deserve it, but NOT automatically.

    -Sarah Lynch

  3. christinaspinelli

    Jessica,

    Thank you for addressing the Chicago Teachers Union strike. I read a recent article from the Chicago Tribune online that emphasizes the fact that contract negotiations are progressing, an end to the strike is near, and that the teachers involved genuinely want to be teaching. Here is the link to the article:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-chicago-teachers-strike-0914-20120914,0,5804860.story

    Also, a few days ago, the Chicago Teachers Union’s blog had a post written by Leslie Russell, a Chicago public school teacher, illustrating her struggle to teach a class of 41 students compounded with a lack of necessary supplies, like desks and textbooks. This first-hand account of the teaching situation is worth reading, as it directly sheds light on reforms that need to be discussed in conjunction with contract negotiations.

    http://www.ctunet.com/blog/from-the-picket-line

    You brought up a really great issue with the strain that this strike places on the community. As much as the strike interferes with the lives of families, the sacrifices that many parents are forced to make in this situation are in the best interest of their children. Dan Brown’s ‘What Makes A Great Teacher’ article stresses the connection between teachers and the community outside the school. He also writes that, “Silence is complicity with the status quo,” and acknowledges that, “Would-be great teachers can also be made or destroyed by district, state, or federal education policies.” I feel like this strike is ultimately a positive event: it brings much needed attention to public school reform issues and allows the workers to effectively challenge unjust policies.

    Parents of Chicago school students (and the students themselves) are among the many groups of people in solidarity with the striking teachers. Those that are invested in the quality of children’s education should support the educators themselves. Sometimes chaos is necessary for beneficial changes.

    -Christina Spinelli

  4. Lindsay Durkin

    I have so many conflicting ideas on what my take is on the strike. A part of me completely understands where the teachers are coming from and thinks they are doing what they need to do to make the appropriate changes to the system – which will hopefully better the students learning process and environment. On the other hand, I feel as though as a teacher – we are there for the students. We are there to help the students learn and a strike only creates a choatic environment. Many students have enough trouble learning as it is, adding a chaotic environment to the mix isn’t helping the students at all. Although I know the teachers goal is to benefit the students, in the short term – the students are going to suffer. Also, I’m glad you brought up the aspect of the Strike that the media failed to mention, Professor. I know how important it is to get paid for the hours we work. I know I would be pretty annoyed/furstrated/angry if I was expected to work longer hours without pay. This would probably only add to my frustration about teaching wages as it is. I believe that educating our future generations is one of the most influencial and important jobs out there, and the pay rate/appreciation do not reflect that in the least. It is kind of insult added to injury when they take it a step further and expect teachers to work longer hours without pay…but would I go on strike because of this? I can’t really say. I know that the reason I want to be a teacher is to help the students learn what is required of them and make the process as pleasant as possible….offering any help I can in order for them to succeed and feel like they have succeeded. I think that by going on strike, I would be jeapordizing all of that…and going against the real reason I wanted to teach in the first place – for the Students. However, it is really easy for me to say that now – when I am not the one being faced with the decision.

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