Monday, September 17, 2012

Welcome to the Jungle


You don't have to be from or in Illinois to have heard of the Chicago Teachers' Union Strike. It is now entering it's second week and negotiations and concessions are apparently underway.

It's an all around tough situation for everyone involved. Hundreds of thousands of children are at home or with impromptu sitters, teachers are not being paid, the City of Chicago looks bad, and there's still this massive education system to fix.

Having sent my children to public, private, and charter schools I've seen pluses/minuses/neutrals about them all. And at the end of the day I feel it is my job to ensure that my children are properly educated. And to do that I have sought to place them with teachers who feel it is there solemn duty to teach my children. But my endeavors have not always been successful.

"It takes two to tango"

On the flip side I've seen teachers who are truly committed to teaching children, yet they have to fight with administrators who are notorious time-wasters or micro-managers. Or teachers whose heart is in the right place but their skills do not yet match the class or grade assignment. Teachers who would greatly benefit from working with a teacher-mentor or class collaborating, but with falling budgets that almost never happens.

At least not in districts like Chicago Public Schools (CPS) where there isn't enough money to go around. And the money that is spent rarely shows up directly into a classroom or into lesson enhancements.

Then there are the absolutely terrible teachers who should have never been hired or more immediately fired. The teachers who demean, belittle, or hurt the children by lowering their expectations of themselves and what they are capable of. And these people seem to stick around forever.

Where are the answers?

Professional educators and administrators have countless sources of motivation so I don't purpose to know what's in the hearts of all those striking educators. But if I were in their shoes, as a dedicated educational professional...working in a district where violence is awfully common place, where high-stakes testing is considered a silver-bullet, and where longer school hours were the prescriptions...I might just be picketing too.

Sobbing and picketing.

Educators get into the field to educate. We want to teach even as we learn. Sure impostors join too for the tenure and health care, but honestly if I did not love working with children I wouldn't stick around. And I would trade tenure for a more competitive salary any day of the week.

I guess I say all that to say that I feel a great deal of empathy for the CPU teachers, parents, and children. It's a jungle out there. And no one knows how to clear away the path.