We Need to Support Teachers

By Isabelle Davis

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Isabelle Davis on the current strikes.

As students at Niles West, it’s hard for us to imagine what going to a (non-magnet) Chicago Public School would be like. It’s hard to imagine the overcrowded classrooms. It’s hard to imagine the hundreds of students who haven’t learned English and don’t have access to ESL programs and are instead thrown into classrooms with everybody else. It’s even harder to imagine being a teacher in a classroom like this. To add to the obvious stress that would come with working at CPS, many of these teachers are new and suffering from a combination of a lack of sufficient training and minimal job security.

 

Unlike most people will try to tell you, these teachers are not focused on getting much higher raises.  Those negotiations were settled early on in the strike, and now they have moved on to other big issues.

Many people believe that teachers have the most secure jobs available, and are practically invincible to firings. In fact, thousands of CPS teachers have been laid off over the past couple of years. This common-yet-incorrect belief would only apply to teachers with tenure (which gives teachers who have been working at a school for an extended period of time, four or five years usually a permanent contract which ensures employment except in the case of severe misconduct). Which means that the majority of the teachers getting laid off are young teachers who never had a chance to learn their jobs or make the impact.

Not to mention that the city is threatening to start judging teachers based on their students standardized test scores.  While on the surface this may sound fair, in actuality it’s a horrible idea.  Students in general are unmotivated to do well on standardized tests, especially ones that won’t have any affect on their grades.  There are an abundance of unhappy students in CPS, and they might do poorly on purpose.  Naturally, teachers with the CPT are adamantly trying to avoid this kind of evaluation.  Instead, many are advocating for a system that other suburban schools, including Niles West, have been piloting.

This system involves a few experienced teachers who are nearing retirement to change occupation to being professional evaluaters and mentors for a number of younger teachers.  Each teacher would be visited by a mentor who had previously taught the same subject at least five times a year, which is more than double the amount typical visits by an administrator (whose visits this would typically be replacing).  During these visits the younger teachers would be given a typical evaluation, but also advice from the experienced teacher.

There has been a lot of negative views of the CTU strike, including one from Niles West News’ Editor in Chief, but we have to think about what’s best for our children and the future.  If inner city kids continue to face disadvantages like overworked teachers in overcrowded classrooms, then traditional problems will continue.  These students will have less of a chance of graduating, much less getting into colleges, and that makes their chances of finding good paying jobs and satisfying careers significantly smaller.

This strike is happening for a reason.  Ninety-five percent of teachers voted yes to striking, defeating an attempt by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to block this very thing from happening (a new law in which 75 percent of the teachers had to vote “yes” to a strike, and any non-votes were counted as “no”).

Teachers in the Chicagoland Area are being treated worse and worse.  People have lost respect for the heroes who give the youngest generation their best chance of succeeding.  The same thing is happening here at Niles West, where the argument about the new contract is heating up.  A big issue here involves evaluations on testing too.  Show your support for your teachers.  This involves you now too, so don’t let them down.