Fighting from our classrooms
Chicago teachers have returned to the classroom after a nine-day strike that pushed back the corporate school "reform" agenda of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Before his first day back at work, an article written for his blog Teacher X., a teacher at Gage Park High School on Chicago's Southwest Side, explained what the strike meant to him in
IN A few minutes, like 3.8 million other educators nationwide, I will enter my classroom to teach a handful of the 55 million students in our country's education system. Our motives and focus will be the same--to deliver the best future for the students we teach.
For the last week and a half, that mission hasn't changed, but for 25,000 Chicago educators, we chose a more unconventional route to fight for that mission--we went on strike.
We decided that the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education had treated our students and ourselves so poorly that the most prudent way to earn the best future for the students we teach was to leave our classrooms.
Looking at the final outcomes, and how far the Board moved, I'm proud to say we accomplished what we sacrificed and set out to do. Make no mistake--our students, their families and we sacrificed a great deal for this. After all, the only people still getting money to put food on the table through this were the CPS higher-ups and the mayor; even as they stonewalled our student-centered asks.
I also feel some disappointment. My classroom still won't have air conditioning. Our class-size situation is incrementally improved, but it will still be a major issue. We may have a slightly less test-centered culture, but we are still facing a tsunami of corporate profits and test-based child abuse.
But that disappointment doesn't lead to discouragement. We stood proudly, we fought, and we won for our students. It is not a final victory or a resolution. We must continue to fight tomorrow and every day after that. We will just be doing so from our classrooms, instead of from a picket line.
I hope we've shown that to our millions of colleagues who followed the strike closely and sent their support. I hope we've taught the country that billionaires not only don't have all the answers to the challenges of public education, but lack the basic knowledge and stake in the game to do much more than pad their pockets at our children's expense.
We must teach well in our classrooms, but as the leaders of the educational arena, we have a far greater calling. We must work with our communities; hear their needs, desires and grievances; and develop a better education system by and of the communities we serve. We must lock out corporate voices and control. To be sure, if businesses want to help with best of motives and ample resources, they are welcome--but they must not set the agenda.
We are the leaders we have been waiting for. Let's create a vision for a better school system, and let's fight like hell to make it reality.
Thank you and much love to all of you. I can't wait to see where our paths cross.
First published at Teacher X.