Friday, September 13, 2013

A Year Later: Reflections from the Strike

It’s been a little over a year now since the historic Chicago Teachers Union Strike of 2012.  For seven days, we were 30,000 strong on the picket lines and in the streets.  Being a delegate during this time has been one of the greatest experiences and learning event in my life.

I will never forget the outpouring of love and support from Chicagoans, and fellow educators worldwide.  I teach in a community where the families do not have many resources, but everyday families would drop off water, Gatorade, and homemade goodies for us.  The support ranged from thumbs up from customers at Target, to honks from CTA, CPD, and CFD, to churches dropping off coffee and tamales, and  truck drivers passing out candy bars.

I loved traveling around the city, and striking up conversations with Chicagoans.  People wanted to know what was really happening, what we were really fighting for, they were listening and sharing our story.  Taking the ‘el downtown for a rally and watching the train car become filled with more and more red shirts, never became less exciting.  I miss the feeling I got when we took over the streets, the excitement in the air combined with the solidarity was breathtaking.

Today as I looked around at my colleagues proudly wearing RED and CTU gear, I think about how we have changed since last year.  When we returned from the strike last year, we felt the pressure being placed upon us from administration, both locally and district wide.  We worked as hard as we could, gave everything 120%, but no matter what we did it never seemed to be enough.

This summer gave everyone and chance to relax and recharge, and we have returned with a new perspective on things.  I know for myself personally I am remaining in a peaceful state of mind.  I am not letting myself become stressed out over things that I cannot control.  My focus is on providing my students the best learning environment and learning experiences possible when they are with me.  (Despite this “lovely” reminder of the dangers of the neighborhood, on our classroom window)

Things are still far from perfect, my school has issues, as do many other schools, but what’s different from a year ago, is that my colleagues are no longer afraid to speak up.  From the strike, we learned that there is strength in numbers.  We are asking questions, we are challenging thinking, we are not okay with being quiet, and we want our voices to be heard.

I know that this fight, our fight, is far from over, the strike was just a first of many battles to come.  I know that with solidarity anything is possible.

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