Saturday, September 15, 2012

Optimism and Tenacity

These are the comments I prepared, and more or less delivered, for my speech at the Chicago Teachers Union rally today.

Good afternoon!

Thank you very much to President Karen Lewis & the entire Chicago Teachers Union team for your generous invitation to speak today.

And thank you for your extraordinary leadership that brought us all here today. A strike is never an easy choice. In fact, we know it's a last resort when all else has failed. Your extraordinary sacrifices of time with your students, of time with your family and risking financial stability are not lost on us.

Like your president, I am also a National Board Certified teacher who sees teaching and union activism as complementary missions to directly improve people's lives.

I am here representing the educators in St. Paul, Minnesota a local union just up Interstate 94 that went on strike in 1946 because they wanted their classroom windows to shut, wanted to fix condemned school buildings, wanted enough text books for their students, wanted job security and wanted a more responsive administration than the mayoral controlled political-favors school system that had been deaf to what was needed for better schools. Does that sound familiar to you?

Those teachers won better schools for their students and so will you.

But I am not here just to reminisce about the past. I am here as a representative of the educators in St. Paul who stand with you today looking into a future of better schools with that same optimism and tenacity as you.

These same issues have been negotiated at our bargaining table. These same goals for students & their families are fought for everyday through our work in solidarity with our community as well as with you.

Like you, we bring up solutions to support families that include just housing policies because school shouldn't be the only roof our students can count on--especially if that roof is leaky, too. We work for just health care policies because our school nurses should not be doing triage Monday mornings & their offices shouldn't be the only urgent care families can afford. We advocate alongside our brothers & sisters in the labor movement for a living wage because every worker deserves that dignity.

We advocate for dependable class sizes, for every child to have music, art, world languages and more because it is vital part of instructing students to be more than test-takers, to making them the innovative, creative, rightful inheritors of the future of America's ingenuity and spirit they deserve to be.

Contrary to what noneducators say about us, we don't bring these things up because they keep us from teaching. What they don't understand is that we bring these things up because the violence these injustices do to our students and families keep us up at night.

Chicago teachers, support professionals, families you have our support because your goals for your students & families are our goals for our students and families. Your goals for our profession are our goals for our profession. You can count on us and we are proud to stand with you.

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