It's teacher hunting season!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Chicago Sun-Times Publishes Scab's Guide to Schools - Teacher Recounts What's at Stake

LATEST, posted 12:52 PM, Sat. September 8, 2012, by Chicago Sun-Times: Talks resume as teachers strike deadline looms. At last night's news conference after eight hours of contract negotiations, Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said that she was "very disappointed."

WMAQ (NBC) TV: "CTU Opens Strike Headquarters as Contract Talks Continue"

Est. 12:15 AM, Sun. September 9, 2012: The Chicago Tribune said that contracts are still not progressing, despite the entry of Chicago School Board president David Vitale, who helped usher in previous recent contracts. The Tribune also reported that Service Employees International Union janitors are required by law to work through a teachers' strike, but the SEIU local president says that janitors will wear red handkerchiefs out of solidarity with striking teachers.

The Chicago Sun-Times has published a guide to scabbing for "replacement workers" who will actual teachers at special "holding schools." (Many teachers have been calling "scab schools." CTU president Lewis has called the contingency plans "a train wreck" waiting to happen.)

Here are the highlights from the guide, via Mike Klonsky's blog. The subtext/translation follows the "CPS’s How To Guide for workers at strike contingency school" tips for the principals, assistant principals, office staff and whomever the Chicago Public Schools manages to scrounge up to staff 144 “Children First’’scab sites when the CTU officially goes on strike on Monday, September 10, 2012, less than 48 hours from now.

• “Wear a watch — your room may not have a functioning clock.’’
Poor school funding: "teachers' working conditions are our students learning conditions." Hellooo
• Dress comfortably as “many schools are NOT air-conditioned.’’
• “You will need to bring your own breakfast and lunch. Please note that you cannot rely on access to refrigerators or microwaves.’’
No faculty cafeteria, or if there is, the staff could be CTU and out on strike
• “Keep personal items to a minimum.’’
Beware of theft
• Sessions for kids run from 8:30 to 12:30 but “you should arrive as early as possible” and be prepared to stay late.
Be prepared to babysit between 12:30 until 3:00 or so, or whenever the schoolday normally ends, and parents come pick up Johnny
• Bring 30 sharpened pencils, 30 pens and a personal pencil sharpener.
The students aren't prepared
• Bring “stickers or other small inexpensive incentive items.’’
Narrowing of curriculum has alienated the students; bribes supposedly overcome this
• Bring old magazines and newspapers, puzzles and games.
Real teaching won't happen when real teachers are away

Klonsky adds:
There's one other tip the guide could have included: Don't drink too much coffee or water before school and be prepared to hold it in because there won't be anyone to relieve you (pun intended).

I can't imagine these poor suits from Clark Street still favoring a longer school day after this experience. But maybe they will gain a little respect for teachers once this is over.

A panicky [Schools CEO Jean-Claude] Brizard sent Lewis a letter Friday, asking the union to voluntarily forgo picketing the 144 “Children First’’scab sites. He claims that he has “deep concerns’’ about forcing “impressionable” kids to “walk through a picket line with their parents.’’ He's also going to have to find a way to slip his forced-labor principals and A.P.s in through the back door to keep them from crossing picket lines. Remember, at some point they will have to go back and work with their teachers again and try to rebuild the trust that Rahm has shattered.

And then there's Klonsky's other post in which he reprinted one teacher's contribution to an eclectic Chicago blog about the meaning of teaching:
What's At Stake for Chicago Public Educators?"
By David Stieber

You have undoubtedly heard the news reports, radio attack ads, CPS representatives, the "CEO" of Chicago Public Schools, and the Mayor saying how teachers are walking out on the students if we strike. Parents, students, residents of this city, as a teacher let me tell you, comments like that rip teachers to our core. As cliché as it sounds teaching is a calling. It's not as if one day we just said, "I guess I'll just be a teacher." It takes skill and dedication to stand in front of 30 (sometimes more) young people in a classroom and truly care and be able to teach every one of them. It is not possible to just be mediocre when it comes to teaching students. A young person is the first to let you know if you aren't doing a good job at teaching the lesson, not getting graded work passed back quickly enough, heck, they will even let you know if you look bad that day.

Teachers just can't punch in, start thinking about kids then punch out and stop. Teachers are always trying to improve our lesson plans, grade, figure out ways to reach the students who are withdrawn, quiet, confrontational or disrupting class. We just can't shut our students out of our lives when the bell rings.

Unless you are a teacher you have no idea the pain, frustration and intrinsic anger we feel when some paid radio ad claims, that "teachers are walking out on students." Some days after teaching, I honestly wish I could walk out on my students and never come back. But no matter how frustrating our day may have been, it is the kids that always bring us back. Teachers spend our lunch periods, before and after school helping, coaching, and listening to our students.

After days of teaching, we spend nights in grad school, trying to make ourselves better teachers. We raise children and think about how we want our own child to be like __(insert name here)__ who we taught a few years back.

There is nothing about our careers, our schools, and our students that we take lightly.

So please understand, teachers are trying to teach you that our careers and professions are under attack. Please understand we are trying to teach you about how your child's education is under attack.

You may find this dramatic, but education is at a crossroads in our country and our neighborhood, our city is right at the intersection of these crossroads. There is an attempt to make schooling privatized, charter-ized, and more inequitable than it already is. There is an attempt to get rid of experienced teachers who have built relationships with families, who truly know how to teach and replace them with less expensive, inexperienced teachers who likely will only be at the school for two years.

There is an attempt to teach through testing, to make your child so bored in school from over-standardized testing that students aren't excited for school anymore. There is an attempt to further cut librarians, counselors, nurses, PE, World Language, Art and now classroom teachers, in order to "save" money. A budget is a political document, not a financial one, it's about priorities. Some priorities obviously need to be re-evaluated.

Teachers in no way shape or form want to strike, we want to be working with and educating your children. The CTU, which represents and is elected by 26,000 educators across this city has had over 50 negotiation meetings with CPS since November 2011. In all of that time "CEO" Brizard has attended zero of those meetings, which means there was no one from CPS at the bargaining table with any educational experience.

So I ask, how do you bargain on what is best for students with people who have never taught students?

At stake is way more than pay. At stake for us is doing what is right for our community, our city, and yes our students, because as teachers it is always about the kids.

David Stieber is a CPS teacher, and is currently completing a Masters degree in Urban Education Policy Studies.

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