Fantasy Island In an Urban Context

When learning new vocabulary words, students have been generally encouraged to write the word (sometimes multiple times), say it aloud, and place the word in a sentence to give more clarity to the meaning of the word. Today’s word is introspection, class. What is it? Merriam-Webster defines it as: a reflective looking inward: an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings. Some synonyms are, self-scrutiny, self-examination, soul searching. Other forms of the word are, introspect, introspective, introspectiveness. Let’s put this word in a sentence to make this definition even clearer. As CPS (Chicago Public Schools) and the Chicago Teachers Union reach an interim agreement on a longer school day, an introspective look as to why over 90% of its teachers voted to strike over this and other issues should be conducted.

Yes, that sentence is a mouthful, but we should take an extremely close look at this statement. Let me briefly take a side trip. If a teacher had an over 90% failure rate in their classroom, regardless of the discipline, his or her head would roll like the Jordan River. What is she doing wrong? How could he not know he isn’t effectively reaching his students? How could that many students not get it? You would think that’s impossible right? If a failure rate is that high, it is immediately the teacher’s fault. That is one reason grade inflation is so prevalent, but that is another discussion at a later time.

CPS has some major issues that need to be addressed, the longer school day just being one issue. Space does not permit me to identify each one, so I will very briefly discuss the longer school day. Conceptually, this sounds great. As the media has glaringly pointed out, CPS students have the shortest academic day in the country. Union President Karen Lewis has been quoted as saying, “We don’t need a longer day, we need a better day.” In many CPS schools, there are no consistent art or music programs. Many of these programs are yanked out, I believe, because the need to raise standardized test scores supersedes the need to humanize and discover talents of our youth. Co-curricular programs cost money, and the arts are viewed as extras.

CPS is willing to pay additional staff (this would include veteran displaced teachers) for instructional time above the typical school day, but was unwilling to pay its teachers for working a longer day. The way this will probably shake out is:

  1. A fairy godmother or godfather will wave their wand, and funds will magically appear in the CPS budget to staff these positions.
  2. Art and music will continue to not be staffed as full-time positions at the elementary level (saving enormous amounts of money), and reduced at the high school level, but will be structured as an extra-curricular activity. Think aloud, oh, no full-time benefits. That will save money.

Similar to most companies, CPS wants more from its teachers, while giving them less. It is unwise to bash teachers, and then expect them to show up at work smiling and cheerful, when several are fighting to retain their dignity (not to mention instructional materials). I’m fairly certain the retention of dignity is partly why over 90% of teachers voted to strike. An introspective look as to the culture and climate of the CPS work place environment would flush out these subtleties.

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