What I Learned From the Chicago Teacher’s Union Walkout

teachers strike 2The “teachable moment” is a fleeting opportunity teachers seize on in order to offer insight to their students. This moment transcends the lesson plan. Teachers recognize it as the ideal moment to enhance the educational experience of the classroom.

It’s a miracle this moment ever occurs because it depends on a convergence of events. During an ordinary day, out of nowhere, a question is asked, and a deeper explanation is needed. Like a ripple changes the calm surface of a lake, the atmosphere in the classroom changes.  Books are closed. The teacher is called on to teach a lesson, without a plan.

These moments are valued foundations of education, as much as Math, English, and Science, because the teacher uses the present moment to prepare the students for the future. Kindergarten teacher Jenne Parks  explains, “Teachable scenarios can extend beyond cognitive development to address social and emotional development.”

Successful teachers recognize the value in an education which goes beyond the lesson plan.

In class, students read biographies of Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela for inspiration. Within these pages, they learn how to reach beyond society’s narrow cultural, racial, and gendered definitions and expectations.  They are instructed to use their education to build on the achievements these ancestors fought for.

How do teachers explain the basic necessity of a good education when the students ask?

“Why is my school closing?”

The answer they receive is the reason I stand in awe and in solidarity with the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU). Instead of giving up, teachers recognize the   ultimate “teachable moment” because the answer goes deeper than a lesson plan, and is outside of the classroom.

They close the books and walk out.

This is not a temper tantrum. The teachers are not giving up. They are fighting Governor Rauner and the state Legislature’s practice of  defunding the schools. They are also “addressing the social and emotional development” of their students which  depends on an adequately funded public school system.

Politicians make so many campaign promises and pledges using the old tired adage of “being for the children.” The CTU has historically fought to hold them to their promises.  When they went on strike for smaller class size, it wasn’t to create an easier job for the teacher. Smaller class size is proven to “narrow the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers,” because teachers are able to spend more time on teaching and less time on classroom management. Even though most of the time they are ignored, teachers never give up demanding extracurricular activities, art, music, and physical education for our children.

The politicians get pay raises, and programs are cut.

“Why is my school closing?”

The teachers closed the books and transcended the lesson plan. The Math, English, and Science lessons will continue on Monday. Right now, their students need a lesson on how to protect their future when it is in danger of being stolen from them. April 1, 2016 was the time to teach the students how to face a challenge and fight for basic human rights, like their education.

Thank you CTU.