Teaching Profession Under Attack, Says Alumnus
Needless to say, relations between the Chicago Teachers Union and city and state lawmakers are strained at best. CPS recently announced another round of layoffs of 1,500 teachers and staff. New CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has suggested a seven percent paycut for teachers. And Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner recently referred to the CTU as a dictatorship.
Dave Stieber, MEd Policy Studies '12 and a social studies teacher at CPS Chicago Vocational Career Academy (photo below, left), wants lawmakers to know what his own dictatorship looks like: the tyranny of trauma, death and post-traumatic stress disorder that plagues his classroom and teaching experience.
The following is an op-ed Stieber wrote for Gaper's Block:
Recently Governor Rauner said, "...the Chicago Teachers Union shouldn't have dictatorial powers, in effect and causing the financial duress that Chicago Public Schools are facing right now."
This statement from Rauner comes just a few days after Forrest Claypool, our newest CEO, said that teachers need to have "shared sacrifice" by taking a 7 percent pay cut.
The shared sacrifice Claypool speaks of means that my wife (also a CPS teacher) and I would lose about $11,000 in combined income for this year alone.
I could go on and on about how Claypool is just another puppet of Rahm, in a long line of puppets appointed by the mayor, or how Chicagoans demand an elected school board (remember Chicago is the only district in the entire state without an elected school board). But since Rauner thinks a union run by 40,000 teachers is a dictatorship and Claypool says teachers need to sacrifice, I will share my stories, so that maybe, just maybe, they both (along with Rahm) will realize what it means to really sacrifice.
Two weeks ago I found out that a student who attended and graduated from my high school was shot and killed. I did not know this student well, as I had never taught him, but what I have found is that his death has triggered many other emotions and memories that I have suppressed.
There is a study that found that people who live in violent areas (like many parts of Chicago) show sign of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) similar to soldiers returning from combat. My father was in combat in Vietnam and for the first 23 years of my life he never once talked to me about Vietnam. It was one night that he decided to watch a fictional movie about Vietnam that it all came back to him. I can see how he has days where his mind is consumed by traumatic experiences he had. He has been able to cope and now is working to prevent people, students especially from going into the military.
I have worked in CPS for nine years now and have had students share tragic stories of losing their friends and loved ones to violence. I have seen how certain events can trigger their traumatic memories.
I never thought that a teacher (myself) could have this happen too.
When I found out that a student from my school -- who had just graduated -- was killed, I was deeply saddened for his family, for everyone who knew him, and that our city continues to let young people die.
However, I have found that now, nearly two weeks after his death, I have been thinking nearly every day of the first student I ever knew who was killed.
Nearly five years ago a young man named Trevell was shot and killed. I taught Trevell as a freshman in high school. He was an outgoing, intelligent and confident young man, but it was clear that he had some difficulties outside of school. As he continued through high school into his senior year, he had made many positive decisions to steer his life in the right direction and had got himself into college. I received a phone call on a cold January Saturday morning from my assistant principal saying that Trevell had been shot. I still remember that day that I found out about his death and also what it was like to go into school that Monday and cry with students and staff and share stories of Trevell.
The following school year I was teaching my senior Urban Studies class. I had taught many of the students in this class when they were freshman. There was one student Deonte who as a freshman I never thought would still be at our school, let alone close to graduating, for how involved he seemed to be with life on the streets. As a freshman in my class, Deonte would typically be focused on anything and everything as long as it was not academic. But amazingly Deonte had turned it around and now, as a senior, had become one of the most liked students by staff and students. He had dramatically improved his grades and gotten accepted into many colleges. But one day in late May, just a few weeks before graduation, he was not in class. When I asked where he was, another student whispered to me that he had been arrested. I didn't believe it, because it seemed to me that he had put that part of his life way behind him. It wasn't until I saw a mug shot of him wearing his school shirt and read his charge that I finally accepted it. He was one of my favorite students. I still think of him often.
Then about two years ago my wife and I experienced a miscarriage 17 weeks into our second pregnancy. My students all knew my wife was pregnant, and while I was out of school grieving the loss, I dreaded having to come back to school to see 150 students who knew that my wife was no longer pregnant. My students were amazing and helped me grieve. My students were actually much better than even some of the adults who knew we had experienced that loss.
I share these stories because my "shared sacrifice" is that every time a student dies I think of these things. I don't even realize that I am thinking of these things at first, because I usually just get angry or frustrated and don't know why.
Read the full op-ed at Gapers Block.