Sunday, September 16, 2012
This evening, I opened Facebook to see the news of Chicago's Teacher Union Strike. Now, it seems, that Emanuel is threatening to take legal action. I made the mistake of reading the comments section. They were just awful, hateful and uninformed. Once again, teachers are being bashed publicly by people who have no idea as to what happens in the classroom and in the school system. According to these people, we teachers are lazy, should be damn thankful that we even have a job, don't really work that much, have it easy, etc. I wonder how many of these commenters work outside of their regular job hours without pay? How many of them have to run a classroom on little or no supplies, and might have to even (gasp) buy their own materials? How many of them have to deal with children who are drug babies, work with children (families) in major crisis? How many of these people are responsible for ensuring a year's growth at grade level regardless of entrance level, language proficiency, learning handicaps, physical handicaps, and more. How many of these people are evaluated on a weekly, monthly basis, as teachers are? How many have more work piled on them when their pay is being cut due to budgets? I could go on and on....
This week I overheard an interesting argument with regard to basing teacher pay on test scores. Someone asked if we should start basing doctor pay on patient status. How many doctors can ensure that their patients won't be overweight, diabetic, etc? Doctors are in control over very little of what their patients do with their lives when they leave their offices. Teachers have very little control on outside factors as well.
If I were to get 20 English only students all from stable homes of literate families that were all performing at grade level, I could move them all to at least the next grade level by the end of the year. If I don't, I am doing something wrong. (By the way, I am lucky because I only have 20. Most teachers these days are at 30) My class roster has never looked like that though. I usually have at least 75% English learners across the spectrum in language proficiency. At least 3 or 4 have some kind of learning handicap which has most likely not yet been identified so I have to struggle with the system to get them in for help. All of the students in my class are living in poverty but a handful are in serious poverty. Then there are the drug families, the gang families, the kids that move around from school to school due work or legal status, etc. It is tough. I work hard for each of these kids though and I do my best to get them all up a year in growth from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.
I guess I could go to an easier school, one on the "good" part of town. That would be a bit easier. I would still have to deal with the sometimes tough district demands but I would have students that were, for the most part, at grade level and without as many issues. I choose however to stay at my school. I choose the needy kids. These are the kids that need a lot of attention. These are the kids, and families, that are, for the most part, so very thankful for any kind of help or little treat I might give them. This is the place where I can feel like I make a difference, even if it doesn't always show up on a state test score.
So...back to the strike in Chicago. I will need to remember to not let the comments from those against the strike get me down. I stand with the teachers in Chicago. Good luck to them. Good luck to all of us teachers who are facing our own battles, even if we are not on the front lines, as our brothers and sisters in Chicago are. Si se puede!