Saturday, April 5, 2014

Chicagoland…living, loving and working in a complex city

I love living in Chicago. I have loving family members here, amazing friends, a great job, and so many outlets for excitement, leisure, and cultural enlightenment.  That’s why I was thrilled when I heard that there was a docuseries  on CNN called Chicagoland that would highlight my wonderful city.

As I’ve been watching the show…I’ve experienced a range of intense emotions. Sadness, pride, laughter, disappointment, and perhaps a surreal acceptance that I am in the trenches of one the show’s most pressing issues…Chicago Public Schools education. Yes, I participated in the Chicago Public Schools teacher strike, it actually served as fodder for one of the first posts I did on this blog. Yes I maintained employment during the largest school closings/consolidations in American history.  Yes I teach at a welcoming school (schools that receive students from nearby schools that were closed) that is next to a dangerous and gang-ridden housing project.  Sometimes I get so focused on my daily lessons, grading, paperwork, planning, bulletin boards, behavior problems, and extracurricular activities that I don’t zoom out and recognize that Chicago Public School students are in a crisis.  A crisis of discrepancy is ramped amongst student safety, extracurricular and cultural exposure, teacher student ratio and access to nutritious foods. I was stunned when I learned that CPS was only 9% white, which means that it’s majority black and brown. That means in buildings throughout Chicago most of Chicago’s white kids are receiving a different, dare I even say better educational experience that is not plagued by gun violence, fear and intimidation when walking to and from school, a classroom that does not have 44 first graders, and more exposure to Chicago’s rich cultural enhancements.  And I’d just like to state…I’m not relying on anecdotes of others or a projected narrative that Chicagoland producers are trying to tell. Over the last month a 7th grade student at my school has gotten shot, and on one of the first nice days where students could go outside for recess, that time was ended abruptly because gun shots were fired right outside the corner/fence of my school. I know that is not the case for all CPS schools, which is a good thing, yet it also causes inadequacies in CPS’ ability to provide an equal and quality education for all.
Sprinkled throughout Chicagoland are glimpses of one of my BEST friends from college. She is Mayor Emmanuel’s Press Secretary and I always get so excited when I see her. I am super proud of her and I always text her and comment on her fashion and professional demeanor. I’m sure she and I may have our differences about how Chicago Public Schools business is being handled and I know she finds the Chicagoland education narrative a bit sensationalized.  However one thing that I know we agree on is, “…your zip code should not determine your life outcome. Opportunity and exposure are everything.” That’s actually a direct quote she said over a text message when discussing our views about the show.  I know that we both want the same thing for Chicago’s kids…while we may be going on different and intersecting paths to get the kids there, we are sitting down to create and collaborate on real exposure opportunities for my students. I look forward to the respect that we’ll show each other in trying to understand our different and shared opinions. I look forward to the partnership and work that we’ll do together on behalf of the kids. There won’t be any cameras documenting what we do…but that’s what lets me know that she and I, Chicago city workers, are both on the right side of making this city the amazing place that it is.

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