I admit I was torn on the recent debate regarding the CPS teachers taking on an extra ninety minutes to make Chicago students more competitive with other learners across the country, not to mention the rest of the world.
In my "pro column" I admire and respect (two words I never thought I'd utter in the same breath as Rhambo) our mayor or any elected official for that matter for doing exactly what he said he would do on the campaign trail. Yep, he promised a longer school day in every one of those debates and by golly he appears to be delivering.
Love him or hate him, the former Arby's employee-of-the-month makes things happen. Word.
In my "con column" I have a recurring entry of Karen Lewis. Full disclosure~I am a self-admitted judge-a-book-by-its-cover kinda gal. Don't judge me...at least I own up to my short comings. I am not proud of this admission.
Something about this gal rubs me the wrong way. I cannot forgive her for "tattling" on Rahm to the media. "He swore at me". Really?!? Breaking News...Emanuel uses salty language...and in related news...no fu*kin' shit.
Part of me respects Lewis...she has a job to do representing the CTU...and by golly, she does it. What does she care what I think of what she projects on a ten-second sound bite/photo op on the five o'clock news.
After listening to the debate unfold in the newspaper and local news outlets, I had heard one side of the story and thought the mayor was doing a good thing by insisting CPS youngsters add an additional ninety minutes to their day. Who can argue with "more education"?
Then I got the other side of the story...from someone who has been walking the walk for nearly twenty-five years...a CPS teacher. She contacted me via e-mail a couple of weeks ago suggesting I use my blogging platform to get the word out. Teachers are getting shafted...big time.
Mary is a friend I have known since grammar school. While we were roommates in college freshman year, she already knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. A teacher.
Her parents were life-long educators. Her dad was a CPS Principal and her mom a CPS English teacher. She knew going in this was not a career that was going to afford her a vacation home to visit during the summer, or a luxury car to drive and park in the school lot.
Mary knew full-well she would never own a yacht or have an in ground pool installed. If she wanted to belong to a country club, she knew she'd have to "marry well".
A career in education meant she would live a simple life, and Mary was okay with that. She was always a "bigger picture" kinda girl.
And the big picture told her a life spent in the classroom meant she would make a difference in kids' lives. Along with parents who were educators, the hope of making a difference was what inspired her.
Soon after graduation CPS got a gem when they offered Mary a contract teaching kindergarten kids at a school located in a less-than-desirable area in the city. Its students were from poor families headed by parents that more-often-than-not spoke little or no English at all. Mary's work was cut out for her.
After years of spending her paycheck purchasing supplies for her classroom along with coats, shoes and boots for her under-dressed students, Mary headed back to class herself. Burned out, she returned to school to earn her masters degree. Her dream of being a kindergarten teacher had become a bit jaded. She felt her strength and skills would be better served in becoming a school counselor. She felt she could make a difference.
Fast-forward to last week when my old friend sent me an e-mail offering "the other side of the longer day debate". Mary presented many valid points from a teacher's perspective.
• Teachers are being ridiculed/harassed/shunned for not sitting and taking Rahm’s crap.
• Demanding teachers work 90 minutes more a day/two more weeks a year with no extra compensation in addition to meager raise that was taken away.
• 2% increase the mayor promises is not 2% of the teacher’s salary—it is a 2% increase of the salary incurred during the ninety extra minutes. This equates to about $600 before taxes for the average teacher salary.
- Of course demands are tough on teachers; must have bachelor degrees, most have a masters degree and a good amount have even earned a doctorate. Tell your cardiologist you are going to withhold salary and see how that goes over. A little respect and fairness is what we want!
Then, Mary compared the education we received (at a catholic suburban school) to a CPS student...this is where she started to win me over...
"Oh and who had the shortest days ever? St. Mike's grads. Take away the 45 minutes daily of religion, and we were lucky to get 4 hours of core instruction. How many of our grads didn't get a high school diploma? How many of our "deprived" grads somehow managed to get doctorates? More time at school is not the answer."
I have got to admit, my educator friend had me hook and line with this quote. Are you ready for the sinker?
Mary continued to explain a recent parent/teacher meeting at her school where parents were informed of the possible upcoming addition of the ninety extra minutes to the school day.
"All the parents wanted to know was when the additional 90 minutes would start. They didn't care what would happen in the 90 minutes. We could be teaching witchcraft and they wouldn't give a shit, as long as they got what they wanted (more free babysitting). Few city parents really care if their children are college ready. They couldn't understand why teachers were against it seeing that they got both the 4% raise mandated in the contract plus 2% more. Truth is the 4% was taken away by Rahm and the board of Ed and the supposed 2% is 2% of the 90 minutes a day (not yearly salary). For the average teacher it would amount to about $600 a year pre-tax."
And there it is in a nutshell~for me at least. CPS teachers have no problem with "educating" the children. The problem lies in adding babysitting to their long list of duties.
My kids are educated in the 'burbs, where most parents live for working hand-in-hand with the teachers that spend five-days-a-week with their "gifted" off-spring.
Yep, out here in the outskirts of Chicago proper, there are parents who make sure homework is done, who follow up with teacher when "Jimmy" just does not get why A equals B, and who have been known to elbow other parents in aisle 17 over at Michael's to get the last pack of craft foam to complete the take-home project of the month.
Not all suburban parents are like this, but the majority are. And, by the same token, not ALL CPS parents fail to hold up their end of the parent-teacher-work-as-partners-bargain at home, but I would guess that is where the majority fall, especially in the poorer parts of town.
A majority of CPS kids come from single parent homes. And those single parents are tired after a long day at work. I would imagine the last thing on their mind when they get home is "what did Johnny learn at school"...and the thought of "how can I help him grasp it better at home" was never entertained.
Until parents are willing to reinforce lessons learned at school at home, CPS students will never be competitive with the rest of the country...never mind the world.
Mary believes the media, area clergy, and alderman are "brainwashing" CPS parents. This teacher thinks twenty-five years of experience in the trenches allows her to say that CPS parents are easily swayed.
I think CPS parents are like most people in America. They have an "entitlement" chip on their shoulders. Kids are "entitled" to an education. If that means seven hours in the classroom each day...awesome! Ninety more minutes of not having to worry about their kids being on the streets? A bonus! Have you priced daycare, lately??
I think teachers are more than willing to make sure their students become all that they wish to become. That is why they chose the education career path.
The trouble is the parents at home. Many are not willing to hold their kids to the same standards. Education starts and ends at home. School should be a place where it is reinforced. Our society has it reversed.
Until we alter our course of thinking nothing will change regardless if we add ninety minutes to the school day or nine hours.
If the mayor wants CPS kids to be competitive with the rest of the world the kiddos' parents need to step up to the plate.