Dear Chicago Teachers Union,
Thank you. Thank you for not only being teachers of students in Chicago, but teachers to all of us across the United States. You are not only teaching us to stand up for what we believe in, but for what we know is right. Each day I log on to Twitter and Facebook to keep up with the story, I question, “Is today the day they are going to give up?” “Can they handle the attacks?” “Are they just going to give in and settle?” And you all make the answer quite clear: No. You all seem to only get stronger as each day passes.
You have dedicated years and years to become the best possible educators you can be for your students, and now people are trying to take that away from you. No one knows the complexities that lie within a classroom better than yourselves. It is hard to watch people who have no idea what it truly means to be a teacher try and tell you otherwise. It is hard to see comments made from spectators claiming you are all being selfish and putting students’ futures on the line. There are thousands of us watching in solidarity that know that is not true. “You can’t put students first if you’re putting teachers last.” How dare they try and claim that our bravest teachers of our time are our enemies.
It completely boggles my mind that so many people refuse to trust educators themselves on knowing what our students and education system needs. You’ve seen it years after years, you’ve listened to what hundreds (maybe thousands) of students have told you, why are people trying to silence your voice? From my perspective, if you silence the teacher voice, you are silencing the student voice. And we cannot stand for that.
You knew the risks going into this action, you knew the type of attacks you were going to get—you took the jump anyway. There are no words to describe what that means to me as a young growing activist. As my activism grows, I often get into a frantic mode questioning if what I’m doing is worth it. Then I see what all of you are doing, and I have my answer.
“You must never be fearful of what you are doing when it is right.” -Rosa Parks
As a student and future educator, many people are surprised I still want to pursue this path. I agree, it is a scary risk to take. Undoubtedly disheartening and discouraging seeing the attacks on the profession. That is why I am writing this.
You all could have easily accepted the rulings and called it a day. But instead, you are making history for current and future teachers everywhere. Yes, it is daunting seeing the teaching profession and public education constantly under attack, but it is even more empowering to see teachers fighting back. Please, do not, under any circumstances, give up. You have thousands of us across the country behind you 100%, don’t ever forget it.
You are no longer just teachers of Chicago, you are teachers to all of us around the country.
Rutgers University Student, Class of 2014
Educational Equity Activist