I asked my students today: “How many of you wish you lived in Chicago?”
The few kids who follow current events got it right away, and I filled in the blanks for the rest. Striking teachers means no school.
And then I told them the story of when the teachers went on strike my junior year of high school. It felt like forever, but as I looked it up tonight, it was only 29 days.
(I thought it went into October, because I remember a sign at a football game begging for an end to the strike, and I was wearing a coat. I apparently forgot that I was in Montana, where in September, it’s 30 degrees at night.)
I’ve belonged to teachers’ unions ever since I started teaching. So I get the complicated issues surrounding the decision to strike. Especially since, in my 1st year of teaching in Utah, we had a one-day walkout. I’ve been on both sides.
I was the student, new to the district, who had to wait over a month to meet her teachers. The student, who spent the next 8 months listening to her English teacher complain about how the union settled. The student who was taught other classes by 19 year-olds, since the only qualification to sub in Montana was to have a high school diploma.
And then I was the teacher who could not make ends meet on a salary for a job she spent 75 hours a week doing. The teacher who loved her students and hated walking out for a day because she knew every day was precious. The teacher who–ten months later–would get totally screwed financially because of crappy health insurance.
I don’t know the specifics of contract negotiations in Chicago. I barely know specifics of my own contract negotiations (I trust the union leadership and the collective bargaining process to not leave me destitute). But I am fairly certain that these teachers aren’t asking for six-figure salaries and paid vacation time during the school year. They are probably asking that if they are in a near-fatal car accident and can’t say “take me to an in-network hospital,” their recovery will still be paid for. They are probably asking that a cost-of-living increase come close–not even meet or exceed, but come close–to the actual cost of living.
They are asking, I’ll bet, for respect.
I read this article at 5:30 this morning, and it soured my whole day. Because it is true. My profession as a whole is often infantilized.
When (not if, but when) I finally leave teaching, it’s not going to be the kids. It’s going to be the lack of respect that I can no longer tolerate.