Friday, February 3, 2017

I Was Fired Today!
By Michelle Strater Gunderson, Chicago Teacher 

Our school system is falling apart, and what solution do Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school CEO, Forrest Claypool have? Firing us for four days.

It might seem as an extreme statement, but that is essentially what we are experiencing. Chicago teachers have been furloughed for four days, and today is one of them. Our work is no longer needed for these days, we are not entering our buildings, and our work has been put on hold in a point in time where the work of our city’s teachers is needed more than ever. We have been fired.

I love my job dearly. I actually live and breathe teaching.

For several years I have taught the inclusion classroom for our first grade team. This means that children with special needs and general education students are taught in the same classroom with the variety of specialists and supports needed for everyone to learn. In room 114 at Nettelhorst we work with one special education co-teacher, 3 teaching assistants, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist. We have additional help from our school psychologist and social worker. This is a huge team of people, but it is required to make sure that everyone learns.

So what do we do on these days of professional development, like the one that we are losing today? We plan, we talk, we envision the work our students can and should be doing. These days are necessary for establishing the working platform that guides the lives of children. Losing these days is no small matter. It hurts us all.

Taking away this day and the pay that accompanies this work is wrong. There are those who would argue that teachers are professional salaried employees and should do whatever it takes to do our job. There will be others who say that schools should run like businesses. I know of no business venture that survives and flourishes on the amount of free labor our school system depends on from its teachers.

We all grade papers in the evenings, create lesson plans on the weekends, and attend countless meetings. But there is certain work that cannot be done unless given the time and space to work together. Without this time, the furloughed planning time we lost today, we have now been asked to do the impossible – create a learning environment dependent on the cooperation and collaboration of almost a dozen people. My classroom is like a ballet, with the people coming in and out of it to dance their part, and now we have had no time for rehearsal.

I refuse to take this lying down. I will join with others protesting the decision to furlough teachers on professional development days. I will join my fellow workers in the city in refusing to upload grades and lesson plans into the school system’s electronic platform. And as a trustee of the Chicago Teachers Union I was one of the leaders who encouraged a no confidence vote of Forrest Claypool.

My stance is personal. I ask you to join me. I was fired for today.

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