Our Teaching Conditions are Your Child’s Learning Conditions
By Martin Palamore
As I pass through playground to get to the building that houses my humble classroom some students greet me and others scorn me because of their impending detention. I walk up the stairs, greet my colleagues, and turn my brain into “teacher mode” ready to educate my seventh graders. However, there is a problem. My classroom’s temperature is a sweltering 97 degrees and there isn’t a working water fountain in sight.
There is a lot of rhetoric swirling around negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and the ChicagoPublic Schools. However, the most upsetting rhetoric has to be that this strike is “hurting our children.” This rhetoric has fed into the collective “groupthink” by “reformers” that Union’s sole job is to look out for the needs of their members at the expense of the students. I have a one sentence response to that, our working conditions are your child’s learning conditions.
The media has played a strong hand is misleading the public in the reasons for the strike and its continuance into a third day. A New York Times, editorialist suggests that this is simply a “personality” play between Mayor Emanuel and CTU President Karen Lewis. A Chicago Sun Times editorialist argues that that the union is, “clinging to an unrealistic notion of what it can accomplish through labor negotiations.”
Shame on you media! For suggesting that the Union’s purpose was to throw our children under the bus.
Shame on you media! For insulting the same people that you argue should be in classroom educating our children.
Shame on you media! For using our children and their parents as political pawns.
The Union is a display of democracy in democratic society. The remarks by some in the media demonstrate an embrace of an autocratic society where a few (rich and powerful) people are allowed to make the decisions that affect the masses.
This strike represents the last ditch effort to stem that tide and fight for our children from the people who work with them day in and day out.
This strike represents the only time the board has listened to the cries of the teachers about some of the decisions that has been made across the district.
This strike represents a resolve to put in “black and white” the materials, support, and services that are needed to successfully educate our children.
Here is what we are fighting for:
- A BETTER school day that reflects the priorities of the district. This means that the students get art, physical education, world languages, and music. This creates a well-rounded student.
- Wrap around services including nurses, clinicians, and social workers so that the teacher can focus on TEACHING!
- Climate controlled classrooms so that the students can focus on learning and not on the temperature of the classroom.
- Professional development that reflects what the teacher needs to know to be successful in the classroom in light of the new REACH evaluation system and the implementation of the Common Core Standards for Reading and Mathematics.
- Books and supplies on the first day of school and programming that is done earlier in the school year. Students should have their materials early and know what classes they are taking from day one. This helps prevent class sizes in the beginning of the year that sometimes stretches to 50 students.
- A decrease in the number of days that students are required to take standardized tests so that teachers can take the time to continue to teach.
This strike doesn’t hurt children this strike HELPS children. Having these provisions on paper ensures that all CPS students can move towards learning in a level playing field.
To be honest, I wish that this contract was simply about pay/benefits and the structure of the new evaluation system. This would have been resolved last year and we wouldn’t be in this mess.
I stand in solidarity with my fellow teachers, clinicians, and PSRPs to improve the working conditions, which in turn improves the students learning conditions.
I adamantly disagree with the critics who argue that because of the strike the kids are being robbed of an education. The strike educates our children in the meaning and worth of democracy and how it can still work to cure the injustices in the world.