Striking Teachers are Also Parents

17 Sep


After a civil and frank discussion, the House of Delegates voted NOT to suspend the strike, but to allow two more days for delegates to take the information back to the picket lines and hold discussions with the union’s more than 26,000 members throughout Chicago. Teachers and school staff will return to the picket lines of the schools at which they teach at 7:30 a.m. Monday and, after picketing together, will meet to share and discuss the proposal. (

When I look at this picture I see striking teachers and staff, but I also see mothers, grandmothers, fathers, aunties, workers just out of college, homeowners, community members, taxpayers, etc.  When I look at this image I see folks that look like the parents and children that are most effected by the strike and have been most impacted by high stakes testing policies.  To be clear, these policies have not produced significant gains for poor, working poor, and working class students of color in Chicago or nationally, but they are doing other types of political, social, and economic work.  Unionized workers have less political voice, schools are largely re-segregated (public/private), and testing is big business.

I recently spoke with a friend who used to teach in Atlanta Public Schools, which has been devastated by test cheating scandals and subsequent school closings( largely in black communities).  She now works at a Kipp charter school. When I asked if there was a significant difference in administrative support for her as a teacher her response was, “Not really.”  But now she works from 7:30am-5:30pm.  I keep hearing the “whatever it takes” mantra often from male administrators in elected office, charter management companies, and school officials.  What I do not hear is any recognition that my friend may want to have children or that many teachers do have children which should not decrease their ability to be teachers.

My experience working in labor taught me that I had to look at the whole person.  A teacher is not just a worker, then a parent, then a spouse, then a daughter, then a grad student, then an active church member, then an involved member of the polity, then a block captain for her street.  She is all of those things at once.  A ten hour work day, with impromptu mandatory meetings at 5:30pm, or an Open House at 6pm after the ten hour day is exactly what unions should be fighting against.  The lions share of the burden for improving our children’s education can not rest on the shoulders of women.  Teachers need protections and they must have the ability to exercise their voice to fight for the rights of children in the classroom, and to protect the best interests of their households as members of Chicago communities.

26,000 teachers and staff made a decision to strike in a Chicago climate where youth violence has been horrific, a housing crisis has wrecked communities, and the financial “crises” have destroyed households.  There is so much more to the story of Chicago education woes.  I have to believe that recent college graduates who choose to go into this profession and veterans who choose to stay in this profession, knowing that all the difficulties the city experiences show up in the classroom everyday; I have to believe that they are bargaining for long-term investments not only in our children, but our collective future as a nation.

For more than a decade now teachers have been vilified as the reason for poor educations standards.  In this moment they are making themselves visible and speaking back in a collective voice.  I for one, as a parent, am listening.

For more on the Chicago teacher’s strike check out the following links:


The Chicago Teachers’ Strike: Its National Significance

Why I Support Chicago Teachers and Parents: $15 Billion Wasted on NYC Teacher Evaluation System

Mayor Rahm-Ney’s Attack on the Chicago Teachers Union


7 Responses to “Striking Teachers are Also Parents”

  1. Erin September 17, 2012 at 7:32 AM #

    My mom taught my entire life up until her death and I’m a teacher as well. When union relations with the district were getting difficult, my mother had to make the decision whether to support her fellow teachers in a strike or continue to work out of fear that the district would revoke our interdistrict transfer that allowed my brother and I to attend her school, which was a college preparatory magnet school. I appreciate your recognition of all of the hard hours that we put in.

    I’m currently pregnant and the situation in Colorado is equally as frustrating. FMLA doesn’t really apply to us and our district doesn’t offer a short-term disability program for expectant mothers. Therefore, when I finally take my maternity leave, the expectation is that I’ve either saved up enough days of leave to cover it, I get donated days from fellow employees, or that I’ve saved up enough money to float my family through that time, until I return to work.

    Our multifaceted jobs as teachers, mothers, and members of the community have never been easy.

  2. Kal September 17, 2012 at 8:52 AM #

    When a friend insisted that the problem with education is the teacher’s union, I asked her what the purpose of her union is. She said that it fought for the members’ rights and negotiated pay agreements. When I asked what exactly was wrong with the teachers’ unions the answers was that union did not watch out for the students and protected the teachers instead. So I asked how much the students paid in union dues and got a look as though I were insane for asking such a question.

    America’s right is determined to destroy any vestiges of collective bargaining in all levels of society. Right now it is destroying the Post Office to rid it of its union.

    The problem with schools is lack of support from parents who abdicated any responsibility for insuring their kids are learning. That is the job of the teachers who see the students in overfilled classrooms and are unable to devote time to each one.

    • katansi September 19, 2012 at 12:54 PM #

      “The problem with schools is lack of support from parents who abdicated any responsibility for insuring their kids are learning.”

      I grew up in a lower middle/upper lower class family (well, it was a couple decades ago anyway) but both my parents had to work full time so couldn’t be there for us after school. They were really damn tired after 12 hours spent getting us ready for school, working, commuting, taking care of all the household stuff, feeding us, doing what comes along with having a family, etc. Kids do need parental support in addition to great teachers but how do you expect to get that if parents need to work to just survive? Unless you make enough where one parent doesn’t have to work or are so super rich that you can get a nanny and private tutors, teachers, parents and kids in families where both parents have to work outside the house full time just to make ends meet are all getting the short end. My parents didn’t have any energy after they got home from work and my dad has spent a significant portion of his years working afternoon and night shifts.

      These are fellow human beings not machines. Working poor are screwed and these teachers are in that category too. So the teachers are getting paid $76,000 for abusive working conditions that we supposedly outlawed nearly a hundred years ago and are expected to not be human beings because we can’t be bothered to support family structure. Saddle them with crippling debt and requirements about getting a masters degree for basic classes and then strike fear into them by eating away at benefits like pension and job security. Look at all the parents complaining that they had to find childcare for kids they chose to have. The problem with schools is the lack of a decent social structure throughout the entire nation and the emphasis on individual survival rather than recognition that we’re a group.

      • FX September 24, 2012 at 8:16 PM #

        I second what katansi said here:

        “The problem with schools is the lack of a decent social structure throughout the entire nation and the emphasis on individual survival rather than recognition that we’re a group.”

        As someone who’s been studying the education system for the last four years and is currently in a graduate program to become a teacher the conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s not a problem that can be blamed on one factor like parents, or teachers.

        When politicians promise to cut taxes, while also promising to support education – they’re lying. I look forward to the day that our society values education enough to actually make it a priority. And privatizing schools is not the solution. That’s yet another way to keep education away from certain segments of the population.

  3. Rangkaian bunga October 4, 2012 at 1:05 AM #

    I think teacher is a hero


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