Friday, August 24, 2007

Teacher Talk Continued

So our ridiculous governor finally signed the budget. CPS is happy, although he cut out funding for school construction. I guess the asbestos in my school will have to stay put. We still have no contract, though.

The conventional wisdom is that we'll wait until we have a couple of paychecks under our belts before striking. But I was reading the District 299 blog about what we should do. We should strike now, because that would totally screw up football season, and football is a proven moneymaker for CPS. You get the coaches involved and I bet we'll get a contract with better than a 3% raise. But we won't do that. The CTU leadership voted to continue negotiations through August 31, at which time they'll meet again. They say that negotiations are going pretty well at the moment. We'll see.

I was talking about the contract stuff with my friend Butternugget, who didn't understand why teachers wanted things that most employees don't get, like job protection and health insurance premiums that are not linked to pay. And she makes a valid point -- why should teachers get this stuff. My only response is that teaching is not like any other job I've ever had.

At most other jobs you get to go to the bathroom whenever you want. At most other jobs, you don't get threatened by students AND parents and get called a motherfucker a lot. At most other jobs desks aren't thrown at you. Or books. Or do you have to worry about your wallet being stolen or your car windows broken. There are a lot of things to love about teaching high school in Chicago.

The saddest part is, there is no teacher shortage in Chicago. I had seven interviews the summer I got my current job. My current job is the only offer I got. You take jobs in Chicago where you can get them. And then your principal can fire you whenever he or she wants to. There doesn't have to be a good reason. He or she just pushes a button in an online form and you get canned. It doesn't matter if you've had great evaluations. It doesn't matter if you are on maternity leave. It doesn't matter if your kids love you and your principal has never observed you.

So people in the city schools work really hard, and they are at the beck and call of their principals. Of course, there are plenty of teachers who don't work hard, and just collect their paychecks and wait for their annual raises as guaranteed by the CTU. But I know a lot of teachers who are not in that category. And we are the ones who are most likely to get canned, because we tend not to blindly do whatever our principals want us to.

We'll see what the new contract looks like. I don't know if we'll strike or not. A lot of people are afraid of striking -- I think a fear of a strike is what led us to accept our last contract, even though it was full of concessions to principals. But we authorized the strike right before Christmas, and that is no way to get a good deal. I hope the union will realize that -- fear tends to hurt teachers more than Arne Duncan. I don't think Arne is afraid of paying his mortgage. I am.

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