As CPS parents, we are writing to recognize you for your work on behalf of Chicago’s children, and to offer you our support in the coming months and years. We share your sense of urgency and your aspirations, and we recognize the brilliant, difficult work you do every day, in the biggest and smallest moments of our kids’ lives. Parents and teachers are on the same side because we want the same things—better schools for all children, and a better system to support those schools. You see our children in all their complexity and curiosity, in their desire to learn, to be challenged, to be respected, understood, and seen. And we see you.
We know that the recent strike authorization vote received the support of 89% of CPS teachers. In our school, the rate was over 98%. We know that you are voting not for yourselves, but for all teachers, particularly those in schools with the least resources. We take that vote and level of consensus seriously; your independent, collective voice is indispensable to any sensible conversation about education. We want to say - to you and to everyone - that the recent steady drum-beat of contempt from politicians and pundits is unacceptable, and that we, as parents, do not and will not accept a narrative that vilifies or blames you. This is not simply a conversation about wages and benefits, but one about our shared goal of building a just and decent school system for both teachers and kids.
The Chicago Teachers Union’s proposals represent a fair set of standards for everyone: smaller class sizes; more student access to music, art, gym, and libraries; more counseling time; and yes, adequate compensation and benefits for teachers, who are being asked to work longer hours next year. All of these are clearly essential to both good teaching and good learning. In our school, in all CPS schools, and in every school everywhere, good working conditions are good teaching conditions. And good teaching conditions are good learning conditions.
Yesterday, the last day of the school year, we watched you re-organize hundreds of books you donated personally to our school, all of them labeled by hand, by you. One was the first book a small student, in the room helping, had ever read “all by self,” with you cheering. She remembered; you remembered. We have watched you think through everything from questions about math, music, and literature – to the daily social and developmental challenges of childhood. We have heard you sing songs from your own childhoods, and seen you engage our kids with each other and the world, studying everything from bugs to berimbaus. With you, they wrote and signed their own books, traveled to D.C., choreographed and performed dances, solved fractions, slept at the nature museum, read life-changing books, cooked Brazilian cheese puffs, made documentaries, learned English, and sang with seniors at our neighborhood retirement community. You are teaching them to be engaged citizens, like you, people who care about others. That is the lesson we take from your work and your vote.
Seen up-close, the complexity of teaching is breathtaking and often unheralded; you guide our children through their days in more ways than it’s possible to quantify. So we are writing to say that we understand that teaching is deeply intellectual and ethical work. And that we see you doing it beautifully. We see you, and we stand by you.
Rachel DeWoskin, Zayd Dohrn, Elizabeth Caya, Rob Caya, Dan Cohen, Beth Hobson, Scott Hobson, Julie Kosowski, Seth MacLowry, Stacy Markham (parents, please let us know if you'd like us to add your names!)