SOLIDARITY CHICAGO TEACHERS!
By Leslie Russell, 99GetSmart
An open letter from a Chicago Public School Teacher:
I literally almost had a stroke on Sunday night when Rahm Emmanuel got
on television and said that as a result of the longer school day,
Chicago Public School students were getting an hour of reading and an
hour of writing each day. Well, I am the reading and writing teacher
for most of the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders at my school, and
based on what is happening where I teach, that is plainly a lie.
I have one hour in which to teach BOTH reading AND writing. One of my
classes is broken into two sections – 30 minutes in the morning and 25
minutes at the end of the day. There are 41 seventh graders in one
classroom, and since I have only 31 desks in my room, we have to start
the period by borrowing chairs from two or three different
classrooms. Oh, and the solution to an overcrowded class of 41? No,
no, it is not to hire a new teacher. It is to take ten seventh
graders out of their seventh grade homeroom and add them to my eighth
grade homeroom, making a seventh/eighth grade split class. For me,
that essentially means teaching four different classes in the same
hour. If reform is the order of the day, start with the radical
reforms of reducing class size to 20, providing enough teachers so
that each grade level can have its own instructor, and providing an
instructional period for every subject.
Let’s not even talk about the fact that I could not give each student
a literature textbook because I do not have enough of them or the fact
that many of the books I did distribute were missing covers. I will
spare you the details of the email I received from my principal
telling me that I have to teach my students fiction story elements
that was followed by an email telling me that I am required to use
nonfiction books on the Industrial Revolution in my instruction.
Last year my students had both a reading class and a writing class.
This year there is just a reading class. Last year my students had
Spanish three days each week. This year they have it once. Last year
my students had P.E. two days each week. This year they have it
once. My students are definitely getting a longer day, but I am hard
pressed to see how it is a better one.
To add insult to injury, my classroom was a blazing inferno last week,
I was not even given accurate lists of the names of the students in my
five classes, and did I already tell you that one of my classes is
broken into two discontinuous sessions?
This strike is a strike of no choice. When the mayor gets on
television spinning fairy tales about the conditions in our schools
and doing so with conviction, when my professional judgment is
preempted by illogical instructional mandates, and when my students
and I are given challenges to overcome in the place of the resources
we need to excel, when the Board sets me up for failure and then
evaluates my performance based on test scores, I have been left with
You picked the wrong union to try to bust, Rahm. You are not going to
create the perfect conditions for failure, close our schools, and sell
our students to your political cronies and their corporate educational
outfits. Teachers, united, will never be divided. I will be shouting
that from the picket lines for as long as it takes to get teachers a
fair contract and for as long as it takes to get students the schools