Monday was a long day at the Chicago Teachers Union Strike HQ that began before my 5 am arrival. CTU staffers and volunteers were glued to laptops and cell phones. The sound of staple guns attaching signs to sticks competed with the voices of people reporting on the latest news from the picket lines. There were huddled meetings sharing data and a mass meeting of the strike coordinators that erupted into cheers as the overwhelming success of the strike became clear.
Across the city parents, students and teachers joined together on the picketlines. There were very few scabs and massive participation on the picketlines. In fact it was hard to travel anywhere in Chicago without seeing a picketline. Across the city people were stopping anyone wearing the now well known red t-shirts and asking about the latest news, offering thanks or just wanting to express their opinion, either for or against.
Bus drivers sounded their horns in support along with truck drivers and ordinary motorists. Cops and firefighters made their solidarity known. Working class Chicago was expressing its opinion and by the reports that I heard, the opinion was overwhelming in support of the teachers, even by those who were inconvenienced by the strike.
Then came the rally in the Loop where once again the teachers took over downtown, creating a sea of red that cannot be divided. It was impossible for me to gauge the numbers, but it was in the thousands: not only teachers, but parents, community supporters and office workers who joined in on the spur of the moment.
After starting work at Strike HQ before dawn on 3 hours of sleep, I was exhausted. As I got off the Blue Line, the platform was filled with people in the CTU red t-shirts, the escalator to the street seemed draped in red and when I emerged on Clark St near the Board of Education my fatigue was gone. There is nothing like the awesome power of the organized working class to banish the fog in one's head.
Chicago 's teachers had turned in Monday's Lesson Plan:
Not all teaching goes on in the classroom. Not all learning comes out of a book. Sometimes you just have to step out into the world and make things happen. Chicago 's teachers are doing their job of public education even as they strike.
All over the city people are asking questions, reading articles, watching media, engaging in heated small group discussions, sharing their thoughts online and doing community service by working alongside of the striking teachers to save public education from a brutal corporate assault.
Children are involved also. They ask questions of their parents. They want to know what is going on and why. They walk the picket line, come to the demonstrations and wonder why school isn't the same this week. Every child in Chicago could be engaged in age-appropriate activities around the strike, even if it's just beating on a drum at a rally or drawing pictures at a picketline. It's up to the parents, the community and the striking teachers to make that possible to the extent they are able. It could be a life-changing experience.
When I was 5 years old my parents took me to the local high school on election day of 1952. They gave me Adlai Stevenson leaflets to hand out while they worked the polling place. I can still visualize the scene in my mind. It put me on the road to a life of social action.
The term "teachable moment" is more than an educational cliche. Chicago 's teachers are providing the nation with a teachable moment in history. Let 's make the most of it.
Bob "Bobbosphere " Simpson is a retired teacher and a member of the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign volunteering at Strike HQ