My Thoughts On The Teacher Strike

PLEASE READ THIS IN ENTIRETY BEFORE POSTING ANY COMMENTS:

Yes, it does require caps because most people don’t follow directions.

I am by no means degrading teachers.

Let that sink in.

I am by no means degrading teachers.

Many of my friends teach; my sister teaches. My teachers gave me my education. My teachers helped develop my skills. My teachers made me love writing so much that I started a blog that, because of YOUR teachers, you can read. Most teachers put up with more shit than they need to on a regular basis. (Most) Teachers do not receive the benefits they deserve.

I live in America. I’m proud to be an American. I’m grateful that we live in a nation where we are free to voice our opinions. We are allowed to form strikes. We’re allowed to say, “I don’t believe what you believe.”

This post is by no means saying “I don’t agree with the strike.” In fact, just to make this very clear, I support our teachers. 100%. But here’s what I don’t support:

(Please note, this is a collective “you,” and not necessarily aimed at anyone specifically, but if per chance a teacher in Chicago who walked around downtown with signs today stumbles upon my blog, then, yes, “you” inspired this.)

For the purpose of this post, it doesn’t matter the reason behind the strike; this emphasis is on how people choose to present themselves. If you’re holding a sign, waving it in front of my face, and yelling at me, I will not be happy. That immediately turns me off. You could be holding a sign saying “Unicorns are real” or “I believe in [insert religion].” Do not try to beckon me with your sign. First of all, you have no idea what I believe. You do not know me. You do not know my background. Why ridicule the people around you. I SUPPORT YOUR CAUSE, GOD DAMNIT!! These tactics turn me off to listening. And yes, I do support my teachers, but I cannot recall my teachers telling me that it is okay to wave a sign near other people’s faces, practically stabbing their flesh. I remember my teachers demonstrating respect. I remember the patience. I remember the professionalism. It is not unreasonable of me to be upset and annoyed. I should not need to bust out karate moves in order to not get slashed in the eyeball by some sign. You teachers are professionals. Act like it.

My second point, which seems far less miniscule as the first especially to non-Chicago commuters, why are you preaching to people on the red line? Do you not understand the majority of people who ride the red line? It’s a joke. The red line is the worst place to try and tell anyone your beliefs. To reiterate, someone could be holding a sign that says, “I believe pigs can fly” and it wouldn’t matter. (Wait. Shit. Swine Flu. Bad example). My point is, know your audience. Go on strike where it makes sense to be heard. Anyone from Chicago can attest to this. The red line, for a lack of a better literary term, sucks.

Last, I understand the reason behind this strike. I sympathize with your anger. What I do not understand is this: just because I choose not to sit and listen to you does not mean I do not support you. Sometimes people have long days at work and just want to go home, eat, and relax. And remember, many people who walked by you have worse jobs than you do. All I ask for is respect.
I really should have titled this piece, “Rules for Protesting,” but the teachers marching around downtown caused the production of this post.

To every teacher: thank you.
To all the teachers who protested: Be respectful. Don’t get a bad reputation because you forgot I’m a person, too.

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6 thoughts on “My Thoughts On The Teacher Strike

  1. You have some great points with regard to the protests and the people who are participating in them and the disconnect between what they teach and how they act. Kudos!

    I do wonder what benefits, specifically, most teachers do not have that they deserve? I can think of two benefits that I do not have that most teachers do; summers off and pensions. I know for a fact that I pay more toward my insurance than nearly every teacher does.

    It is easy to make the case that any person working a random job is not fairly compensated. But I am curious about specifically what you meant by that comment?

    • “This strike represents something so much bigger than simple “teacher pay”, an issue that has largely been settled through negotiations. It’s a stand for public education. It’s a stand against corporate for-profit take over of community schools. It’s a stand for giving ALL students the OPPORTUNITY to succeed, rather than dooming some of them to fail before they even get a chance. I dedicate my entire life to giving those students a chance.
      And that’s why I’m going on strike in the morning. For my students. To vocalize that ALL students should have access to art, music and PE. All students deserve a nurse in their school (my school doesn’t have a nurse for example), to have AC in our year-round schools, to have adequate counseling and support staff. To not have 40+ students jammed into my classroom when I cannot physically fit them all in let alone teach to the highest standard. Our PE teacher has 50-60 students in ONE CLASS. How can our students succeed when they’re packed in like sardines? How can you pay me based on an inherently flawed standardized test, while devaluing my art content and ignoring the fact that half my students come to me without fluency in English? Don’t pigeon hole me, and then compare my students to select-enrollment schools when you’ve skimmed the top-scoring students off and sent them elsewhere.
      My school scored 2nd for highest gains in Math, and 19th for highest overall gains on the ACT. We’re doing our job to the best of our abilities, we’re working with what we’ve got. I’ve had a 100% College Credit rate for my AP students for 3 years in a row! I’m blessed to teach at a school where my principal supports the arts and entrusts me with leadership positions. But this isn’t about me or even my school – it’s about ALL students. It’s for the good of ALL of our society. I believe in camaraderie and community. And that’s why I am a public school teacher.”

      That is from a CPS teacher that is on strike. Hope that helps.

      • I sure wish I could send you a contribution to your strike fund, CPS teacher! What a great post. It is truly inspiring. I survived my many years in the classroom by looking into the eyes of those learning-hungry students every day, and now, when I am older, I know the constant fear of the bill collector is mitigated by the good I did. I am proud that I enriched those lives, even if my little apartment may be foreclosed on, even if I have to work hard to hold onto what little I have (without a pension or health insurance). I made a difference in the lives of hundreds of children and so are you by standing your ground. The hearts of thousands around the country go out to you and are watching!

    • Also: “The media has focused attentions largely on the issue of teacher pay. And while this is one of the only things that we can legally strike over, the contract negotiations have largely settled on the issue of pay. The real issues here are philosophical regarding best practices in public education. It’s about the quality of ALL student’s education. The system works for some, but not for all.”

  2. Very well said Megan…..And because they were teachers, this is mainly directed to them. I totally agree this could have been “Rules for Protesting”. But being it was teachers, they are cause for this being about them. I understand people on strike are unhappy, but that does not give them the right to wave signs in someone’s face and be rude. You want to be treated like a professional? Then act like one.

  3. Myth # 1. Everyone thinks they can teach; that teaching is an easy job. I can tell you, as someone who taught for 20 years to some of the most difficult students in the school, that you wouldn’t want my job. You are exposed to every kind of awful illness/disease that goes around. You don’t always get a pension. Many don’t. That is magical thinking perpetuated by those who believe this myth.
    Myth # 2. Most people think everyone is teachable; that all students want to learn and can learn. That is untrue. Most schools get paid for the number of days kids are in a seat at that school, whether they want to be there or not. How many classes did you attend in high school where students slept through classes, etc., or just goofed off behind the teacher’s back? Testing students for disabilities requires specialists, so often students go untested and can be very disruptive, but it also takes parents who will follow through and work with the school. A teacher alone cannot do that for every single student. I rarely had less than 140 students assigned to me per day. That means grading papers, doing class preparation, locating supplies and a classroom, making sure I even had chairs, desks, light, heat and ventilation. Air conditioning in high heat was a rarity. Try teaching in 90 degree heat to kids who would rather be somewhere cool.
    Myth # 3. Our schools are under control if they have a “good” principal and practice controlling the students by punishing them, etc. Most administrators know their school stays “under control” if they are popular with the kids, so they’ll do anything to create that situation. The teachers get little or no backup and are on their own in classrooms of often hostile, gang-oriented students in high schools. Most schools are in a very difficult position and have been held hostage by the population who refuse to give them the tools and support they need to have smaller classes, a positive influence on their students, and the right to remove troublesome kids from the classroom. I have seen 2nd Grade kids with black belts in karate bully many others in their classes and the principal refuse to remove that student, for example.

    I quit teaching after 20 years because of lack of administrative support. The last three years of teaching special needs students in high school, I received several death threats from students who had limited ability to control themselves. I love kids and enjoyed teaching when I had the support of parents and administrators. It became an exercise in futility, so I decided it is up to the community. It takes a village to teach a child, and it’s up to you, Megan. I challenge all of you residents of Chicago, or wherever you live, to support your teachers. When they’re on strike, join the picket line and take them food, give them donations and help them. They have reached the end of their rope metaphorically. That is why they are yelling at you. You haven’t been listening and they’ve run out of patience. They have the toughest job in the community and are the ones on the “firing line” between civilization and degradation. Most of them would give their lives for their students, think about that!

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