Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Be Informed. How the CTU Strike Reminded Me to THINK for myself

This Chicago Public School strike has demanded something of me that I haven’t had to give in quite some time in areas outside of my education and personal interests. I have had to research, make myself informed and develop my own opinion. I’m not lazy, that word implies a lack of effort across multiple facets, but what I have been is comfortable and trusting in people thinking for me. (Ok, so I just don’t want to be considered lazy…sue me).

With the slew of negative media backlash and supportive CTU citizens and friends I was forced to figure out where I stand with respect to the issues. All that said, I wasn’t quite well versed on all of the issues. Why are we striking? Why am I not getting paid to do this? Why aren’t the kids in school right now?  Is there any truth to what the other side is saying?  Why didn’t they just get this resolved earlier so I could sign the contract without even reading it and just know that I could reference it if needed?

With all those lingering why questions I had to do something. If I was going to take a stand and be a part of this movement, I had to be educated on what I was doing and why.

I tend to learn best through externally processing information. That is, I can read it, digest it, but I usually can come to a higher form of understanding by bouncing my idea off with someone else. I was so blessed to speak with some people who immediately supported the strike, reminding me of the importance of unions, the roles they’ve played in advocating change, and empowering me that the protest I was a part of is/was purposeful.

My conversations then lead to people who as my friend supported me, but offered some dissenting questions that truly challenged me to think about where I stood in relations to the people who were speaking on behalf of me (Karen Lewis) and where I stood with all of the issues that the CTU were rallying for. At some points, I didn’t have answers to their questions, and I had to go out and seek that information and then form an opinion for myself.  Through these conversations I learned the importance of thinking about how my actions impact others. I was reminded of the value in not putting blind faith in someone else to speak for you, rather to research something and think for yourself.

Lastly  I spoke with people who were vehemently opposed to the CTU strike. Some were respectful, and some weren’t. I learned the importance of maintaining your dignity, and not giving the other side anything nasty to say about you. To disagree with respect.

I read objective flowcharts which outlined the changes in the CPS teacher contracts over the years. I read articles that my co-workers posted  on Facebook which helped to articulate our sentiment in a way that others hadn’t. I read articles that were posted by one of my best friends, who just happens to be Mayor Emmanuel’s press secretary. I watched press conferences, read the literature that CTU handed out, spoke with my students and their parents during this strike.

Throughout all of these conversations, my mind was stimulated. I was in a state of cognitive dissonance…my thoughts, opinions and beliefs being affirmed, altered and changed. On some issues I strongly agreed with the CTU and felt justified in my strike participation. On other issues, I could see the merit in the CTU dissenting opinions.

The point of this post isn’t to give you a run down of where I personally stand on the issues, because I’m not an expert, I’m not in the negotiating room, and I’m still learning and understanding this contract.

The point of this post was to share the fact that I got informed. Please remind yourself to get informed. We’re voting on November 6th. There are preachers, rabbis and thought leaders in our places of worship,  on our TV screens and in our books telling us (with good intent I assume) how to think  and live our lives. Take into account what others are saying…but remember to get informed for yourself.

Today, I voted at my school on whether or not to continue the strike or end the strike. My vote was based on my understanding of accepting the new clauses of the tentative agreement, the previous contract, and the learning I had acquired over the past week with this strike experience. When I cast my vote, I felt really good. I felt like I made an informed decision

Throwback Piece - I'm Never Alone - October 2010

I am never alone. Despite those moments where I may have a pity party for myself or conjure up some sort of emotion that could resemble loneliness, in all actuality I’m never truly alone.

I don’t attribute this notion of never being alone to some deep spiritual meaning, though in another conversation spirituality definitely contributes. This feeling of never being alone is really based on a figment of my creation…it’s the fact that I have an imaginary audience – and truth be told I’ve had one since I was young. Some kids have imaginary friends, but not me, I had an imaginary audience -and it has stuck with me even until this day.  

I don’t know where the audience came from or how it came about; and it’s not as vain or self-centered as it may sound. Perhaps that Truman Show movie really got to me.

My imaginary audience gets a really good show if I must say so myself. They hear me talk to myself  (or in my head depending on the setting) on just about every occurrence in my life. I narrate a range of emotions and topics from “what will I wear or eat today” to “how did I end up in this situation?” I vent about disappointment, struggle and anxiety and gush about achievements, romantic crushes and outfits. Of course my imaginary audience is a great crowd – they laugh at all my jokes. No wonder I’ve kept them around for so long - they just seem to get me.

Looking back at my life I can truly say this audience has been there with me. They’ve seen it all – the high and low moments and no matter what have stuck by my side.  They’ve given me support, validation, laughs and at times have been the perfect voice of reason to help keep me on track.

I have no idea what my imaginary audience looks like… I should probably clarify them as an invisible imaginary audience. No matter how I classify their existence – I know they are there. I often find myself talking out loud when no one is around only to reveal the fact that I’m speaking to my imaginary audience.

Psychologically I’m sure my audience can be explained as the rationale and processing of my most inner thoughts and motivations – but that doesn’t sound as fun as thinking you’re providing entertainment and fodder for a group of folks. Am I two doors down from schizophrenia or some kind of disorder? I sure hope not…and at least my imaginary audience doesn’t seem to think so

My thoughts on Happily Ever After...a fairytales resolution

Right now I’m experiencing some difficulty with the series of events we call life.  I don’t make a case that what I’m experiencing is the worst in the world b/c I’m super aware that things could be much worse.  All that said, my pain is real…and I will heal.  How do I know I'll heal...because I believe in fairytales.

As adults with plenty of accomplishments and pains under our belts, we’ve pretty much cast aside the notion of fairytales for kids as a way to teach morals/values and/or to inject a belief in optimism for their futures.  Perhaps I’m clingy, but I’ve held on to the idea of a “happily ever after” from the stories I learned as a child.

I think the reason why many adults tend to let go of the “happily ever after” is because life doesn’t deal cards that lend itself to that thinking. People die, people get sick, we lose jobs, we lose friends, we lose relationships, we lose trust, we experience hurt and pain on many levels. Where is the “happily ever after” in that? Well…it’s not there…that’s the bad stuff that just hurts about life, and it can take years, therapy, prayer and whatever healing agent needed to get us through those times.

More often than not, our inability to see that we can and will heal leads us to thinking that fairytlales are a joke, and there is no happy ending.  As someone who teaches literature plot structure to 4th graders I encourage you to stay with me  as I go on about the series of events in fairytales, which parallels life hardships and can lead to a happily ever after. 

In fairytlales, BAD STUFF HAPPENS! Cinderella is verbally and emotionally abused by her family, Hansel is literally trapped in an oven awaiting for his doom and Gretel is forced to become a slave. Snow White is poisoned by a jealous enemy and left to die. Those are the conflicts in the story, which intensify as suspense is built through the rising action and then lead to the climax, where the characters are directly confronted with their problems. The plot structures which ensue after the climax are falling action and resolution. Typically in fairytales, the falling action , which are the events that happen after the climax, carry out in a way that the character(s) continue to press through their hardship through strength or wit or some bought of good luck/force come in and allow them to overcome their obstacle. After the falling action comes their resolution, the problem is gone and they live happily ever after.

My point in going on about the structure of fairytales is that they resemble our life experiences. A fairytale mindset is not one of fantasy bliss and no hardship, it’s one that acknowledges that hardship comes, and some kind of way, you manage to get through those hard times unto a resolution. Sometimes we get through relying on strength, courage and wisdom. Other times we get through our difficulties by nothing else than the love and grace of the divine. It can take time, but we get there.

I use my parents as a lens for happily ever after…especially since on many levels I want what they have in their relationship. They have been married for 34 years!  I don’t think for one second, they will tell you their marriage has been easy. It has had obstacles, hard moments and I’m sure times where they thought they may not make it. The fairytale comes in though because when it’s all said and done, they both find a way to continue their love.  They both find a way to get through financial, emotional, physical and professional hardship. Whether it’s through their own strength and wit, or by the love of God – they continue. 

Please be encouraged that if you're going through a rough patch, you can and will get through it!  And I have to take my own advice b/c I know I’m feeling like I’m going through something that will be very hard to heal from.  You can and will smile again, and when you look back at what you’ve gone through, feel as though you’ll live happily ever after. 

Getting Back to the Things You Love...My Affair With Smoothies

So, I want to say back in 2007 or so, a popular trend on Facebook was posting 20 things about yourself and attaching it to 20 important people in your life.

One of the “profound” things that I discovered about myself at the time was that I loved smoothies! Something about the blend of ice, fruit, yogurt and juice instantly can lift my spirits.

I’ve bought my share of smoothies over the years and had accepted the belief that Smoothie King, Jamba Juice, or any other coffee shop had an expertise on making these delicious treats. I never thought to make them on my own because for some reason, they just didn’t seem to be as good as the ones from the store.

In my last relationship, my partner reminded me that I had a blender and got me out of my habit of wasting those last pieces of fruit in the container that weren’t as pretty as the others. My partner got creative and encouraged me to "Make a smoothie!"

What I noticed is that my partner wasn’t concerned about how the smoothie tasted in comparison to the other stores. He tried new things and they were good. 

Since then I’ve gotten back to making smoothies…I love them. I’ll still buy Jamba Juice, etc. but they won’t ever be like the ones I can make. Mine are special.

I share this seemingly frivolous story with the greater purpose of reminding people that we should do the things that make us happy. Don’t let losing touch and time dismantle you from doing the things that you’ve enjoyed. Don’t let fear that it won’t be good enough as/for someone else to stop you.  It will be great because it was made by you and for you.


Welcome to the UnExpert

Hi – first off, thanks for stopping by. Let me give you a disclaimer on this blog - I am not an expert on anything I am talking about. My intent is to show that I’m just like you. I often ask questions that don’t have simple answers. I do my best to make a point with these writings, and if anything hope that people can connect. I gathered the bravery to share these because I realized that perhaps I don’t have to be an expert. I don’t have the voice of some of the most witty and profound writers that I love, but I’ve got my own voice. Take a look and read around…and yes, leave a comment if you feel so moved. Even if you are the only one! J

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