An Uninformed Student's Opinion on Teachers Union Negotiations

Or at least what he knows of it.

As a teenage senior who goes to Geneva High School, let me just say this: I am tremendously and wildly uninformed about pretty much everything that goes on outside of my immediate teenage woes. My own self-indulgent teenage angst about the usual homework, extracurriculars and college have completely blinded me over the past few weeks to one of the most controversial topics right now: the recently settled teachers union negotiations in Chicago and the negotiations going on now in Geneva.

As a student, let me just say this: I am proud to live in a district where teachers care so much about students. Once I got my head out of the dark and actually read news reports, the strike in Chicago was just about over. I was aware that faculty members of each school district were negotiating contracts, but I never bothered to delve deeper into it.

Teaching new generations of children is one of the most upstanding professions a person could ever go into. Teachers aren't just shaping minds, but shaping the world for the future generations to come. To see these sages reduced to striking on the streets is a travesty in itself. 

Why did teachers strike in Chicago? It's not just because teaching—this centuries-old profession that has given the world the education it needs to be propelled forward—is one of the lowest-paid careers in the Chicago area, but because these teachers aren't being judged fairly. Generally, the performance of teachers in a district is linked to that specific district's standardized test scores. Standardized test scores are probably one of the worst things to base a teacher's performance on, as the scores can vary due to poverty and social issues, anxieties, and overall needs of each individual student. To judge teachers by these scores is like judging a culinary school's professor on his or her prodigy's food. Each student has his or her own unique needs and goals when it comes to testing, whether a teacher has prepared them well enough or not. The performance of the teacher should be judged based on each student's individual academic progress, not the standardized test scores they get no preparation for and take only once or twice throughout the year. As a student, I want the feeling that my teachers have helped shape me into an educated person, not just a bolded statistic. 

I really did not know a lot about the Chicago teachers strike until this blog post, and I still don't know enough to break it down point by point. I know teachers were seeking better wages, better pensions with more stable retirement benefits, and to have the judgment of their teaching styles based on more than just a test score. 

I really only have one thing to say about the topic of teachers union negotiations: I may know little about the statistics and percentages, but if there are educators out there willing to give me a better education and thus a better preparation for life, then there are teachers out there whom I would be willing to give my best work to—not because I'm a fantastic student, but because I am willing to care about other human beings who are willing to care about me. If that means paying more in taxes to give them more financial security, fine. If that means allowing them to strike during school, I'm OK with it. 

Teachers give so much to the world through the education and academic achievement of students. When taxes and the government and unions and all of these terms get thrown into it, people get angry. People get greedy. And then people get insensitive. Teachers are teaching us how to read, how to do complicated arithmetic, think critically, and how to shape the future into a world we want to live in. They are literally teaching children how to one day rule the world, performing miracles in the classroom on a daily basis.

Teachers should benefit from teaching just as much as students benefit from learning—to underpay and demonize our teachers is not going to solve anything. They deserve everything they are negotiating for and perhaps maybe even more. These teachers are creating new worlds in the eyes and imaginations of students across the globe. As a district—and perhaps even a society—I believe we should give these teachers the environment and materials they need to accomplish their own goals of creation.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Rudy September 22, 2012 at 12:45 PM
I wish Jeff the author was more open minded to both sides of the argument he seems very polarized to the Union's side only? I am willing to listen to everyone's point of view I just wish he could see the other sides also. What do Jeff's parents do for a living, how much do they make, what type of retirement security do they have? If they are average private sector citizens I can almost guarantee they don't have it as good as most teachers. The teachers do a great job! we are just asking this once show compassion to there fellow man and get by with the same income for a short period. It doesn't seem out of line to me to ask them to take a short pay freeze since most people I know have had to do so for the last 3 to 4 years and the teachers have not. It is one contract and they have 100% guaranteed retirement so I don't see your point there. Most people have to rely on the stock market for our retirement income which is far from secure.
John R September 22, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Nice blog post Jeff! So much of what you've written rings true. I think a lot of people have lost sight of the importance a teacher plays in preparing our kids for the future. All you high schoolers should be watching very closely to what's going on with your school district. I encourage you to come to the next school board meeting and witness it first hand. It's a great civics lesson and one you can experiance and witness first hand. Rice PS. Ignore the attacks it took a lot of courage for you to post your blog. Good job.
Leslie Juby September 22, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Andy, You questioned what was being "taught to the students." I replied that based on the content and form of his essay, he had been taught writing skills, critical thinking skills, and research skills. There are many examples of critical thinking in action, but they do not have any correlation to Jeff and his essay.
Lou B. September 22, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Jeff, while I do disagree with your analysis, I applaud you for taking the time to write a letter to the Patch. Ad you grow older, you want to make a concerted effort to talk to responsible individuals on all sides of the issues of the day. The best way to win a debate with an opponent is to know his side better then he does.
James Cullen September 24, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I have some more thoughts on this issue that I would like to share specifically with you as a fellow blogger. They’re more lengthy than is suitable for this comments section, so I invite you to look at them at my new blog on genevpatch.com dated 9-24-12 at http://geneva.patch.com/blog_posts/teachers-unions-and-the-high-school-class-reunion. I have included a personal message to you at the end of my new blog. You and your fellow students may also notice some subtle references in this blog to certain student rules of GHS. Their parents may enjoy playing “name-that-tune” with lyrics of some awesome dancing songs from the 1980’s that I have included. It’d be a good thing if more of your fellow students got involved in studying and speaking out on these issues. You’d be doing them a favor by encouraging them to do that. They should know that their future is at stake in this issue, at least as long as they live in Illinois. It is the civil rights issue of our time. And it is urgent. Best of luck in your future endeavors. James Cullen


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