Trouble in the Windy City

Trouble. We’ve got trouble with a capital T and that stands for Teachers.

With apologies to the Music Man, Rahm Emanuel might be singing this tune. Mr. Mayor has a problem. Chicago teachers said “We’ve had enough!” and walked out on strike. 26,000 teachers. Countless students. Parents scrambling for child care. Police officers on duty to monitor picket lines and wayward students.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the issues except one: the use of standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. Regular readers know how I feel about that item. In fact, I’m going to hold my test-fail examples for another post to really do them justice.

The part of this story that hurts the most, the statement that cuts right to the heart, is Rahm’s statement that “…our kids do not deserve this.” If he intended to spark a guilt trip, it almost worked. This was a low, low blow.

Teachers in Chicago and elsewhere have put children first again and again and again. Have you heard of teachers buying classroom supplies with their own money? Teachers coming in early and staying late? Bringing work home? Grading tests on weekends? Attending meetings without pay? Walking a child to their waiting parents so the hallway bullies won’t act? Making sure their students get fed, even if it means buying snacks out of their own wallets? Teachers want the best for children.Teachers want to do the best job they can because (guess what) the students deserve a good education. 

For teachers to walk off the job, to stop teaching, means a lot more than a contract dispute. It means that these teachers have lost their trust in the system, a system that is supposed to support them as they educate tomorrow’s workforce.

Rahm, er, Mr. Emanuel, needs to cut the guilt trip. The teachers in Chicago have worked harder and harder, achieved more with less, over and over. They are beyond the point of feeling like they’re leaving students in the lurch. Teachers were hung out to dry a long time ago, and their declining working conditions had a direct impact on the students.

Most teachers agree that students do not deserve the effects of a strike. Teachers are not in the profession for the income; they’re in it for the outcome. A strike is a last resort.

Maybe my opening lyric today would be more effective as “Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with D and that stands for Disrespect.” The syllabication is all wrong, but the meaning rings true.

Chicago teachers have the emotional support of millions of educators across the nation. Once in a while drastic measures are necessary. This is one of those times.


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