Now, it looks like I will have lived through two Chicago teachers’ strikes: one as a student, one as a teacher.
After months of contemplation, after many conversations with friends, I’m in. Tomorrow, I will wear red for the first time in my 17-year career.
Our strike date is set for September 10 because Chicago Public Schools leaders and the mayor want us to continue working a longer day for free. They do not respect us as professionals. They do not understand what good teachers do.
When I was in college, I accompanied my mom to Mexico when her mother died. We spent most of the hurried flight sitting next to each other silently. My mother is a strong woman who came to Chicago at fourteen and was failed by the educational system. She has a sixth grade education; she is the most intelligent woman I know.
In Mexico, we buried my grandmother. We prayed. Days after, aunts and uncles and cousins continued thinking about my grandmother and began conversing about other people, other things. My mom and I found out one of my cousins fought with her husband regularly. He was an alcoholic. He abused her verbally. He put her down for working. She is a teacher.
One evening, in a small home with many bedrooms, I overheard my mom, my aunt, my cousin talking. Despite my mom’s deep sadness, her boldness had not waivered. “Defiende tu carrera,” my mother, who still wishes she could have gone to college, quietly–boldly–told my cousin. “Defend your profession.”
I recite my mother’s advice silently when I must invoke her boldness to speak up or speak out.
I said it to myself when I faced J.C. Brizard and Karen Lewis face-to-face at a Tribune event last year after my writing won an essay contest. Neither educational leader liked my questions that night. But I asked.
I disagreed and disliked the Chicago Teachers’ Union rhetoric and decisions many times over the last 17 years—I’m honest. Central office has disappointed me many times, too.
I still don’t agree with everything. I’d like to exchange some ideas and propose some solutions to the CTU and CPS leaders. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance.
But for now, I will wear red. The mayor, the CEO, the non-educators, and too many CPS leaders outside of the classroom misunderstand the demands on teachers today. They demand what is questionably best for students and expect the impossible from good teachers.
Tomorrow and through this struggle, with the Chicago Teachers’ Union, I will defend our profession.
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