How Chicago’s Teacher Strike Explains the Education De-revolution

Some of this article is really mind-opening. The rest is, at least from my view, common sense.

“We’ve been flipped off, people have screamed at us,” said Jenna of marching downtown. “They’re trying to turn the parents against us. People need to know that this is not fun for us, that this is really hard on teachers, who care about our kids. None of us came into teaching for money. It’s not about that. We’re out on the picket line at 6:30 in the morning because working conditions are so terrible. You have 30-40 unhealthy and emotionally unstable kids in a classroom with no help and budgets getting cut all the time, and what do you think is going to happen? What kind of test-evaluated superteacher isn’t going to keep these kids from getting left behind?”

Teachers do not get paid much. We don’t do what we do for money. We teach because we want to reach students. We want to find the one thing (or more than one thing) that makes them want to learn. The elementary school that I’m student teaching at has an increased population this year. They have 20-25 students per class. They’re lucky in comparison to Chicago. I simply cannot imagine having 30+ students in a class. There is no way to handle that many children. Furthermore, Chicago schools have no librarian (which alone makes me upset), no music teacher (!!), a part-time art teacher, a part-time social worker, and a PART-TIME NURSE.

In the elementary school I’m in, there are children with special needs. Every child with special needs has an aide. Some aides are for multiple students in one class, some aides are one-on-ones. These aides are trained for dealing with the problems that the students have. Also, they can pull a student from a classroom for extra help, or if the child is having a meltdown (which does happen). How is one teacher, without help, supposed to handle 30+ children if even one of them has a severe learning disability or emotional problem. What if the child is autistic and cannot communicate in the same way as their classmates? How is a standardized test going to reflect on that student, that class, and that teacher?

How GERM is infecting schools around the world?

Finnish educators have learned systematically from other countries how to reform education and improve teaching in schools. The United States has been a special source of inspiration to Finland since John Dewey a century ago. Such American educational innovations as cooperative learning, problem-based teaching and portfolio assessment are examples of the practices invented by teachers and researchers in the United States that are now commonly found in many Finnish classrooms.

What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland

First of all, although Finland can show the United States what equal opportunity looks like, Americans cannot achieve equity without first implementing fundamental changes in their school system. The following three issues require particular attention.

  • Funding of schools: Finnish schools are funded based on a formula guaranteeing equal allocation of resources to each school regardless of location or wealth of its community.
  • Well-being of children: All children in Finland have, by law, access to childcare, comprehensive health care, and pre-school in their own communities. Every school must have a welfare team to advance child happiness in school.
  • Education as a human right: All education from preschool to university is free of charge for anybody living in Finland. This makes higher education affordable and accessible for all.

Shocking, isn’t it? Education as a human right? In America, we push students to be competitive. Get the highest grade, be top of your class, do better than everyone else. Even schools are competitive in standardized test scores. It’s a nation-wide pissing contest. The politicians are winning by shifting the blame to the teachers, and the students are losing.

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