Blog Hop

Tagged by Kenzo Shibata http://kenzoshibata.wordpress.com/

“My Chicago Teachers Union sister Melissa Barton who blogs at Skool-Aid tagged me in what is called a “blog hop” which she described as,

A chain letter for blogs, but ”without the threats of supernatural punishment should you fail to do it in a timely fashion.”

So the idea is that I write a little about myself and link back to other people’s blogs that I like.”

What do you write about and why? 

I write about all things that are impacting public education (poverty, violence, bad educational policy created by non educators etc.). As a high school history teacher with a masters degree in urban policy studies, I have started becoming increasling aware of all the attacks with faulty data against public schools and public educators.

It is a challenge to say the least to teach all day and do the things that teachers love to do (which are working with kids and all things teaching) and then leave school and hear radio ads, politicians, conservative think groups (thank you Milton Friedman), fake educators (Michelle Rhee) and fake educational organizations with “clever” names (Students First, Stand 4 Children, Advance Illinois, Democrats for Education Reform among many) bash teachers and everything public for the sake of their or their friends own profits.

Where besides the blog do you write?

I have written for the Huffington Post, Gapers Block and Alternet. Mainly I wrote for the Huffington Post.

What do you do besides writing this blog?

I am a father, husband, teacher, spoken word poetry coach, involved in the Chicago Teachers Union, just finished my masters at UIC. I have many things to keep me busy.

Which authors do you find inspiring?

Howard Zinn.  Any and all Civil Rights era writers, activists, and speakers. Educational writers like Diane Ravitch, Kenneth Saltman, Lisa Delpit, Alex Kotlowitz, Linda Darling-Hammond. The three best professors I have ever had, Bill Ayers, David Stovall, and Pauline Lipman.

Chicago has some of the best spoken word poetry around and a few (there are many) of my favorites are Kevin Coval, Malcolm London, Roger Bonair Agard, Patricia Smith, among many many others.Check out Young Chicago Authors to get into the Spoken Word in Chicago.

Basically any author that is willing to speak the truth to power. Read any of these people and you will know what I mean.

What is your writing process?

I usually find myself very upset and frustrated with whatever I feel the need to write about. I usually work out, get my thoughts in order, then write a frustrated copy, edit it myself, then have my amazing & brillant wife or my dad edit the version then submit it for publication.

What blogs are you going to give shout outs to?

There are a whole lot of people out there doing amazing work. I’m going to give a shout out to my dad who was in Vietn Nam and now actively speaks out against war. Check out his blog and get educated to the realities of the military. http://warisslavery.blogspot.com/

What’s At Stake for Chicago Public Educators?

You have undoubtedly heard the news reports, radio attack ads, CPS representatives, the “CEO” of Chicago Public Schools, and the Mayor saying how teachers are walking out on the students if we strike. Parents, students, residents of this city, as a teacher let me tell you, comments like that rip teachers to our core.   As cliché as it sounds teaching is a calling. It’s not as if one day we just said, “I guess I’ll just be a teacher.”  It takes skill and dedication to stand in front of 30 (sometimes more) young people in a classroom and truly care and be able to teach every one of them. It is not possible to just be mediocre when it comes to teaching students. A young person is the first to let you know if you aren’t doing a good job at teaching the lesson, not getting graded work passed back quickly enough, heck, they will even let you know if you look bad that day.

Teachers just can’t punch in, start thinking about kids then punch out and stop. Teachers are always trying to improve our lesson plans, grade, figure out ways to reach the students who are withdrawn, quiet, confrontational or disrupting class. We just can’t shut our students out of our lives when the bell rings.

Unless you are a teacher you have no idea the pain, frustration and intrinsic anger we feel when some paid radio ad claims, that “teachers are walking out on students”. Some days after teaching, I honestly wish I could walk out on my students and never come back. But no matter how frustrating our day may have been it is the kids that always bring us back. Teachers spend our lunch periods, before and after school helping, coaching, and listening to our students.

After days of teaching we spend nights in grad school, trying to make ourselves better teachers. We raise children and think about how we want our own child to be like __(insert name here)__ that we taught a few years back.

There is nothing about our careers, our schools, and our students that we take lightly.

So please understand, teachers are trying to teach you that our careers and professions are under attack. Please understand we are trying to teach you about how your child’s education is under attack.

You may find this dramatic, but education is at a crossroads in our country and our neighborhood, our city is right at the intersection of these crossroads. There is an attempt to make schooling privatized, charter-ized, and more inequitable than it already is. There is an attempt to get rid of experienced teachers who have built relationships with families, who truly know how to teach and replace them with less expensive inexperienced teachers who likely will only be at the school for two years.

There is an attempt to teach through testing, to make your child so bored in school from over standardized testing that students aren’t excited for school anymore. There is an attempt to further cut librarians, counselors, nurses, PE, World Language, Art and now classroom teachers, in order to “save” money.  A budget is a political document, not a financial one, it’s about priorities.  Some priorities obviously need to be re-evaluated.

Teachers in no way shape or form want to strike, we want to be working with and educating your children. The CTU, which represents and is elected by 26,000 educators across this city has had over 50 negotiation meetings with CPS since November 2011. In all of that time “CEO” Brizard has attended zero of those meetings, which means there was no one from CPS at the bargaining table with any educational experience.

So I ask, how do you bargain on what is best for students with people who have never taught students?

At stake is way more than pay. At stake for us is doing what is right for our community, our city, and yes our students, because as teachers it is always about the kids.

http://www.alternet.org/education/chicago-teacher-speaks-out-why-we-fight?page=0%2C0

http://gapersblock.com/mechanics/2012/09/07/whats-at-stake-for-chicago-public-educators/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-stieber/whats-at-stake-for-chicag_b_1881077.html

Aurora Colorado & Chicago Shootings

I am truly sorry for the people and families who lost their lives in the Aurora Colorado shooting. I know it was a horrific event that deserves national attention. I wonder though, in Chicago since Memorial Day over 130 people have been killed, hundreds more shot. Just Friday night 3 people were killed and 21 were shot. Why is this Chicago violence not getting national attention? Why is this violence not even getting local attention other than to say another shooting happened and then move on to the next news topic? Are the shootings not getting attention because most of the shootings take place in the South and West sides of the city? Are the shootings not getting attention because the people being shot and killed are black? Are these questions making you uncomfortable? Are you trying to think of other answers of why these shootings are not getting attention? Are you blaming the victims? Are you trying to say it was all “gang” related? Are you trying to say it isn’t because of the areas of the city where the shootings are taking place? Are you trying to say it isn’t because of race?  How can it not get national attention that more people have been shot and killed in Chicago by gun violence than in the war in Afghanistan? Maybe even the better question is what are we as citizens in this city, state, and country really doing about it besides making excuses, ignoring it and going on about our daily lives or being thankful that we don’t live in “those” neighborhoods?

http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/letters/13947892-474/journalism-at-its-best.html

Informational Teacher Pickets

We educators always prepare and plan ahead. We plan our student’s lessons, units, and curriculums weeks and months in advance. So of course we have been planning that if CPS continues to belittle, offend, and generally not put the best interests of students and teachers first then we will strike if necessary. We don’t want to strike so we have planned events along the way to avoid one, we have held marches, parent town hall meetings, written letters to newspapers, been on tv, and now we are holding informational pickets just in case CPS continues to not understand how to effectively educate children. CPS is pushing for merit pay, which has been proven ineffective in study after study. CPS is funding charter schools ahead of public schools, even though studies show charters do no better than public schools. CPS is trying to eliminate language in the new contract on class size and teacher seniority even though studies show class size and teacher experience are the two things that lead to dramatic student educational growth. We are teachers and we know these things, because we read and prepare. In another recent study it shows that teachers actually work on average 18 hours a week on our own unpaid time being prepared. So this week nearly every Track E school will have teachers outside picketing a school system that has no idea what it is doing, because it is a school system with a board of education who were never even educators in the first place. We teachers are prepared to do what is best for the students even if it means doing what is painful for us and them and that is going on strike.

http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/letters/14636017-474/strike-prep-is-for-real.html

“Teachers Would Walk Out On Students”

You have undoubtedly heard the news reports, radio attack ads, CPS representatives, the “CEO” of Chicago Public Schools, and the Mayor saying how teachers are walking out on the students if we strike. To teachers who have dedicate our entire professional lives to students that comment and comments like those are beyond offensive.

Teachers just can’t punch in and think about kids and punch out and not think about kids anymore. We, teachers are always trying to improve our lesson plans, grade, figure out ways to reach the students who are withdrawn, quiet, confrontational or disrupting class. We just can’t shut our caring about young people off when the bell rings.

Teachers in no way shape or form want to strike, we want to be working with and educating your children. The CTU which represents and is elected by 26,000 educators across this city has had over 50 negotiation meetings with CPS since November 2011. In all of that time “CEO” Brizard has attended zero of those meetings, which means there was no one from CPS at the bargaining table with any educational experience. So how do you bargain on what is best for students with people who have never taught students?

So in 10 days if we strike, we will be walking out for and in some cases with the students not out on them.

Why I Marched

I marched today along with over 5,500 CPS Teachers and Staff because we are tired of being disrespected by people who are not educators. We the educators, the people who work with students, work with parents, and are invested in our school’s communities, know what will work for our students.

We marched to show that our schools are not failing; it’s the policies that are failing the students. I marched because we care so much about the students that we realize if we don’t march and come together now, the privatized educational system that is being proposed by the current administration will cause irreparable harm to our students, schools, communities, and our careers.

We do not want to march. We want to teach. We do not want to strike. We want to teach. We do not want to be forced to implement the newest, latest, ineffective and untested educational policy. We want to teach.

In the course of caring about our students, we have to care about ourselves. We have to care about the policies that we are asked to implement. We have to care about our compensation as educators. We have to care about full rich curriculums. We have to care about schools with counselors, librarians, psychologists, and social workers. We want to teach in a school system that values and respects every child, no matter where they live. We want to teach, but until we are allowed to teach and feel that our students best interests are at heart WE WILL MARCH.

 

A Teacher for the Strike Vote

Let’s be clear the strike vote does not mean we teachers are going to strike. This vote legally authorizes teachers to strike if; the appointed board of education with zero educational experience, the “CEO” of CPS and the Mayor continue to bash, antagonize, and disrespect public school teachers. Zero progress continues to be made on the contract negotiations, not because the Teachers and CTU have stopped negotiating, but because the Board’s proposals are harmful for students, parents, teachers, and overall our city. Schools are not a business and should not be run as such. The Board of Education should be made up of teachers, parents, community members, not multi billion and millionaires with no respect for public education who choose to send their own kids to private schools that have art, music, gym, and world languages every day, while the public schools do not. I will vote for the strike authorization vote, because the board and mayor need to know how serious we educators are. A strike helps no one, but since Rahm has come into office he has bashed us and blamed us for anything he can. A time comes when teachers must stand up to harassment by the only means we have left to do so. No one wants to strike, but the mayor is leaving us with no other options. So we will authorize a strike, then let it be up to him if he wants to work with us or continue to bash us. Whatever rout Rahm chooses will determine if we actually have to strike or not in September.