I’m a day late for Slice of Life Tuesday but it’s been hard to find a time to sit down and gather my thoughts about the mess in Chicago right now. So I’ll just tell it like it is.
Today, after picketing in front of our school for four hours we were asked to drive to one of three high schools that have been slated for turn around and show our support. I marched with thousands of teachers through a neighborhood that would usually cause me to lock my doors and not get out of the car. It was over 90 degrees and with the sun bearing down the heat was oppressive. As I waddled along, holding my belly, I wept silently behind my sunglasses. Part of it was the stress of this entire situation, part of it my over emotional state as a pregnant woman, and part of it was the energy of the people, many of who probably aren’t used to having so much support right in their community. As we walked backed to the car I couldn’t help but notice how much garbage littered the streets, the group of suspicious men gathered in an empty lot, the shuttered and barred windows. I thought to myself how hard it must be to live here, be a child here, be expected to succeed here.
Every morning we stand out on the street. We are well fed and watered by supportive parents and community members. We are met with honks of encouragement from citizens and city workers. We are also greeted with angry faces, a negative comment, or a thumbs down. Although we always have children with us, some teacher kids and some students who have come to show their support, we are also subjected to occasional profanity and rude hand gestures. I have taken to looking above cars so that I miss this negativity.
The media war is intense. Our union leader, being a teacher herself, is not the best at dealing with the press which makes us look bad… often. I know she’s doing the best she can, but it needs to be better and I find myself apologizing for the union rhetoric and trying to explain the issues to everyone I meet. I go between feeling a great sense of pride in being able to stand up to the political machine and feeling like a pawn in somebody’s game. After three days I wonder what the hell is going on in that room and why they can’t come to an agreement. At night I dream of being back in my classroom with my students and everyday I go home and cry, then fall into bed exhausted. When I wake in the middle of the night I check my Facebook, my Twitter, the News for any sign that this will all end. But it never comes. In the morning I get up and do it all again.
Inside the walls of my school, behind the door of my classroom, when I was able to focus on the joy of teaching I found great meaning in my day. I found great purpose in being an urban educator. Now as I stand exposed on the street corner I begin to ponder bigger questions and issues. I begin to wonder if it’s better somewhere else and if Chicago is the right place for me anymore. If they even deserve me.
I desperately need to get back to my students to remind myself why this is all worth it.