I need to be better in the fall about using children's books with my high-school students. Although their rhythm, rhyme, and repetition may seem rudimentary, children's books can help teachers introduce complex topics to teens. And adults.
Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Teachers' Union President Karen Lewis need to remember The Zax by Dr. Seuss. This is the story of a north-bound creature and a south-bound creature who meet face to face one day in the Prairie of Prax. Each stands waiting for the other to step aside. Neither will. Here's a bit of their negotiation session:
Narrator: Then, the North-Going Zax said with North-Going pride...
North-Going Zax: I never have taken a step to one side, and I'll prove to you that I won't change my ways if I have to keep standing here 59 days!
South-Going Zax: And I'll prove to you...
Narrator: Yelled the South-Going Zax...
South-Going Zax: That I can stand here in the Prairie of Prax for 59 years! For I lived by a rule, that I learned as a boy back in South-Going School, "Never budge." That's my rule. "Never budge in the least. Not an inch to the west, not an inch to the east." I'll stand here not budging. I can, and I will, if it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!
I know Emanuel lives on the North side. Does Lewis live on the South?
Chicago teacher contract negotiations made little progress even after Monday's report by an independent arbitrator who recommended a fifteen to twenty percent pay bump to cover the longer or full or better (depending on your point of view) school day. This would be a compromise from the mayor's proposed two percent bump and the CTU's proposed thirty percent bump.
According to Chicago Public Radio, the mayor said this recommendation is not "tethered to reality." He cites a fiscal crisis. CTU leaders, however, "do not disagree" with the recommendation, according to Monday's press briefing. But CTU leaders have not made it clear if they would be satisfied with fifteen to twenty percent pay bump.
Let's recognize: Emanuel began a fight bigger than his ego. From the start, he insulted teachers, minimized what we do, and imposed questionable education leaders. Unlike both Daleys who came to power, in part, because of Chicago unions and saw the invisible politics of our city, Emanuel is blind. Daley would have never enraged a union the way Emanuel has. Daley respected the force of organized labor. And he was smart (or shady) enough to let someone else take the punches--and the hits.
Emanuel overstepped his role, pushed Brizard aside, and now stands face to face with one of the biggest unions. My union. Even though the arbitrator is telling him to take one step east or west, he has not yet. And he may not. If he wants to survive Chicago politics, he has to move.
Karen Lewis, though, doesn't seem to be budging either. To her credit, she used the anti-Emanuel sentiment to build a bold coalition to stand strongly against the mayor. It started off as a professional conflict, but now it seems purely personal. Many, many teachers also despise the mayor.
Lewis is using the momentum to lead the fight for more pay, smaller class sizes, more libraries, air conditioning, more art classes, more music classes, more world-language classes, more social workers, more psychologists, more playgrounds. What did I miss?
This is where our union leader fails. We don't have a focus. I understand the logic of possibly going to strike because of no pay increase for the longer school day or large class sizes. But will we go on strike if 160 schools don't get libraries? If my school does not get the air conditioning fixed? If we don't get more art classes? P.E. classes? World Language classes? Playgrounds?
What's the minimum pay increase we want? Do all CTU members agree? How do CTU leaders know?
The needs of Pre-K, elementary, middle school, and high school teachers are different. We are all lumped together and are left with no choice but to stand, like the Zax, and say, "I'll stand here not budging."
"Why won't you budge?" some ask.
"To show unity," CTU members say. But it's time for us to move beyond this vague response.
I've been teaching for almost eighteen years. I lived through the last strike in 1988 as a high-school student. I don't remember the cause. I just remember the shouting on TV and starting school in October.
One hope that if we go on strike, our CTU leadership will create a clearly defined memory in our members', our students', and city's mind of what we are fighting for and stand its ground meaningfully, unlike the Zax who just did not move because the other one did not budge.
But my other hope is that both Emanuel and Lewis move, so we do not have to strike.
What do you think Mayor Emanuel should to do resolve this conflict? What should President Lewis do?
(Any offensive or vulgar comments will be deleted.)
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