Editor's Note: This week, 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, over the coming days we'll be 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.
It’s Thursday morning, and Chicago’s 617 public schools should be welcoming their 350,000 students back for their second (and in some cases third) week of classes. Kids should be filing into classrooms, opening their books, and getting to work. They should be practicing sight words. They should be annotating, multiplying, and experimenting.
Instead, it’s Thursday morning and students are filing into 144 designated spaces across the city, where they will be supervised between 8:30am and 12:30pm. They will be fed breakfast and lunch. They will have two 55 minute activity periods.
Meanwhile, their teachers are picketing outside of their schools. Their list of demands is long.
I’m no expert on the negotiations. But as someone who spends the majority of my day with teachers and their students and have seen first-hand the repercussions of this strike, I believe CTU leaders have chosen a destructive path that is hurting the kids who need our support the most.
While union members chant, “Hey hey, ho, ho, Rahm Emanuel has got to go,” the teachers I support are trying to figure out how they will make up for the lost time. Many teach one-semester credit recovery courses. For every day lost to the strike, you can double it for their kids.
While union and district leaders argue behind closed doors, student athletes around the city are missing opportunities to attract attention from college recruiters and possibly earn athletic scholarships that would allow them to continue their education. As long as this strike persists, they are left on the bench.
While classrooms sit empty, parents no longer have the security of knowing the building, teachers, and administrators who will care for their children all day. Rather than send their children to unfamiliar schools, neighborhood centers, or parks staffed by unfamiliar adults, many parents are keeping their kids at home.
Both sides argue that they are fighting for what is best for Chicago’s kids. What’s best for kids is maximizing time in the classroom. I fail to see how this strike will benefit them; it could have and should have been avoided.
Teachers absolutely have the right to stand up for themselves, but sacrificing instructional time undermines the effort. I believe most teachers would drop their signs in an instant to get back in their classroom with their kids, but all they can do is wait for their leaders to let them.
We cannot continue to hold our kids’ education hostage and use them as leverage to satisfy the demands of the union. For now, I am waiting anxiously for a resolution so we can get to the most important task at hand: educating Chicago’s 350,000 students.
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.