Genevieve Guyol (Chicago '11) is in her second year of teaching in Chicago.
Most mornings over the last 9 days, I stood at the corner of 47th and Ashland dressed in red and holding a strike sign with my fellow teachers. As cars and trucks drove through the intersection, we waved our signs and encouraged them to sound their horns. We chanted “Res-pect!” and implored people driving by to show their appreciation for our work. One family of eight children stood dressed in their new red t-shirts (purchased just for the occasion) and held signs that said, “I support my teachers.”
From the media and countless family members and friends, I have heard comments that teachers are asking too much. They mention that the city of Chicago is broke and that we receive health benefits far superior to the benefits of private sector employees. They cite the union leadership’s request for a thirty percent raise in a budget crunch as evidence that the teachers are greedy and have unreasonable demands.
I disagree. I don’t think teachers are asking too much. Rather, I think the mainstream media misunderstands the teachers’ requests. Most of the teachers with whom I have talked are seeking that the public recognize the value of their contributions to our society. Teaching is difficult. Teaching in a bureaucratic system that treats teachers as hourly employees who must swipe in and out each day is even more difficult. Teaching in a city where the mayor vilified teachers in the media to justify rescinding their raises has the potential to break teachers’ wills. I am impressed, however, by the dedication that I see from the fellow teachers at my school each day.
When people hear that I work at a traditional CPS school, many comment that I must work with many teachers who are lazy and ineffective. On the contrary, they are dedicated teachers who are doing the best they can with the resources and training that the district provides. As a first year teacher, I learned a great deal from every single one of my peers each day. Veteran teachers carry with them practicality and intuition that my 23-year-old mind is only just developing.
Teaching is an exhilarating profession because there is always room to implement new ideas and approaches. I am lucky that as a part of Teach for America, I have access to incredible mentorship, coaching, and resources, which is not always the case. Instead of seeking to eliminate ineffective teachers, we need to give them fair chances to grow.
Once we begin to take seriously professional growth in the education field, we will make great strides towards giving teachers the respect that they seek and deserve. Instead of seeking to break the teachers’ unions and their wills, let’s try giving teachers the recognition and support that they deserve. It will only enhance the manpower invested in our children’s futures.
Editor's Note: Our hearts and minds are with the people of Chicago, who are experiencing the city’s first teachers' strike in 27 years. As Wendy wrote this summer , Pass The Chalk aspires to be a forum for "engaging in candid discussion and debate about the biggest issues surrounding education today." In that spirit, we are featuring a range of perspectives on the strike and what it means for teachers, students and families in Chicago. We encourage you to join the dialogue on our Facebook page and on Twitter @PassTheChalk.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Teach For America, its staff, and/or any/all contributors to this blog.