For students outside Chicago, the teacher strike might seem like a dream come true -- one week into a new school year, an unexpected extra week of summer. But students at Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago say the strike is more of a nightmare. Many students are joining their teachers on the picket line to show support for revising their teacher's contract, and protesting a new evaluation system.
The New York Times points out that the battle over these reforms comes at a tricky time in the middle of election season. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teacher’s Union butting heads could cause rifts in the Democratic party.
According to students, their teachers want a better contract, but most of all, they are anxious for the strike to be over and school to resume.
When the strike began on Monday, Flordalia Rodriguez, a 17-year-old senior at Curie Metro, wanted to lend her support, but her mother would not allow it. “My mom thinks the teacher strike is really bad for me because I’m a senior. But on Thursday I told her I really wanted to go support my teachers because if we support them, I’m sure they’re going to make a faster decision... She said, ‘Don’t go. The teachers are very selfish. They should know that they’re not doing the right thing.’ But I said I need to support my teachers,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said she’s grateful for the small class sizes at Curie Metro, and for people like her physics teacher who stay until 6 p.m. explaining the material. Even though Rodriguez’s family moved to a suburb of Chicago, her mother valued the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Curie Metro so much, that she lets her daughter commute into the city for school.
Francisco Garcia, 17, also attends Curie Metro High School, and has not gone to school this week. He said students have the opportunity to go to school, but many are just "sitting there playing Monopoly." Instead, he’s joined his teachers on the picket line three times.
“The teachers made me who I am today. I think they don’t get recognized, I think what they’re asking for is fair,” he said. He doesn’t think that a teacher’s evaluation should be based heavily on standardized tests. “A lot of people are saying they’re asking for what they want, I think they’re asking for what they deserve,” he said. “One of my English teachers said he doesn’t know what to do with himself. They’re not allowed to grade, or do anything school-wise.”
Students are not supposed to have any contact with their teachers during the strike. This has Rodriguez in a bit of a panic. She has been going to the library during this week to go over schoolwork with her friends, but in terms of college applications, she is desperate for her teachers’ help.
“I’m worried I won’t be ready enough for college. One of my deadlines is December 10, but I still need help on my college essays. I need their support to ask if I’m doing the right thing. And I still have no idea how I’m going to pay for it,” she said.