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.