In Chicago we are on the verge of teacher contract strike.  Depending on who you ask and what you read the reasons behind it are different.  Depending on who you ask and what you read what is fair for the pending contract is different.  Both sides are fighting for what they believe is right for students.  Doing what’s right for the kids of Chicago.  I have only worked with Chicago kids, so they are all I know, but I have also only worked in neighborhood schools on the far south and south side.  I only know kids who are coming to school from neighborhoods that experience poverty, gun violence, and high unemployment.  I only have worked with students who are often below grade level.  These are the classrooms in which we need the best teachers, in my opinion.  And I have worked with some of the best teachers in the city.

I have worked in a school without the arts.  And I have worked in a school with music, art and a pool for students to learn to swim.  Without a doubt, it makes a difference.  There is no test score that tells me that, there is no value-added score to support my conclusion.  But when I see students who have been enriched with arts they have more connections to make, offer creative ideas and solutions, and bottom line, have a richer student experience.   All children should have these opportunities.

I have taught 24 students and I have taught 31 students.  Seven kids makes a world of difference.  Smaller classes are more productive for students and more productive for teaching and learning.  Knowing students and having a relationship with them makes me a better teacher for them.  Not just because I have a relationship but because I can know them as a student, what they need support with, what content they are struggle to grasp, what areas they need to be accelerated to grow even more.  This works for students, this works for teachers.

Chicago is a place of extremes.  We have some of the top rated schools in the nation in our school district.  I am proud of that fact.  We also have some of the toughest, hardest to staff, neighborhood schools in the nation.  All of them are filled with teachers that want students in their  classrooms and schools to be successful.  I know that too.

My teaching partners and I last year experienced a unit of study with our students called “Equalize our Education.” They learned about the history of education in our country, they found out about how not all schools are equal even within our own city, they found out their school had things others didn’t and that other schools had some things they didn’t.  They had ideas and dreams about what schools of the future should be like, they talked about technology, the arts, student voice.  Not one of them talked about more testing and bigger classes. Listen to the children of Chicago and do what’s right for kids.