Tuesday, September 11, 2012

When 350,000 Students Have No Teacher

chicago teacher strikes
No matter which side of the fence you’re on, the Chicago teacher strikes are serious business. It is bringing to national attention what many of us take for granted: when parents go to work, what do they do now with their children?

For the moment, many parents are dropping their children off at Sheridan Park and other locations where kickball abounds.

The Chicago Teachers Union is demanding, among other things, higher pay scales and at least 16% raises in response to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s plan to lengthen the school day. On the union’s side of the argument, more work should equal more pay. On the mayor’s part, he agrees—he just doesn’t agree up to 16%. And while they duke it out behind closed doors, students are enjoy some recreational time.

Chicago teachers are second only to New York City in pay. NBCNews.com reports, “Chicago teachers make an average of between $69,470 and $76,000 per year, second-highest to New York City. The deal Chicago Public Schools put on the table includes a 16 percent average salary increase….”

This brings to mind another blog post where we examined the effect of a higher pay scale on teacher effectiveness (which was followed up by this post). While we can easily say that higher pay will increase competition and therefore help us pick the best and brightest teachers, it is just as easy to say that teachers who are motivated primarily by money are not as invested in their students ‘growth.

There are a few possible benefits to students’ education as these strikes occur, if teachers play it right. Consider the following:
  • Negotiations
    • Few Chicago students will ever think of the word “negotiations” in the same light after this week. But will students see it as an opportunity to have their voices heard, or will the word come to be synonymous with “incessant arguing”?
  • Politics
    • There is an excellent history lesson at work here. Unions began as a means to protect workers’ rights. Is that still the case? Where does protection end when the proceedings could be detrimental to student education? Has Chicago’s government become out of touch with the people it serves, or has the union forgotten its truer purpose?
  • Learning Styles
    • Children will learn. No matter what they are doing, they are going to develop a worldview based on their interactions. Playing kickball in a park while Mom is at work and Teacher is shouting hackneyed chants will have an effect on every child. So what are students learning without formal instruction? How are they learning it? Why is that what they chose to learn?
How do you feel about the strikes? What would you like to see happen?

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