As an educator and proud Chicago Teachers Union member, I found Andy Shaw’s August 12 op-ed on remote learning to be insulting. Shaw insinuated that our union does not have students’ best interests at heart, and that educators did not work hard to provide a good education in the spring. Neither is true.
The union’s guiding principle throughout this pandemic has been our responsibility to advocate for educators, students and their families, and the communities we serve. We did our absolute best last spring in the midst of a crisis to provide lessons and enrichment to students, while not implementing punitive grading systems that would penalize children most affected by the pandemic. Many educators — like many CPS parents — also didn’t have the benefit of grandparents like Shaw to watch their children while they worked.
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Educators were also painfully aware that the pandemic’s most brutal effects — in terms of infections, deaths and job losses — were felt by Black and Brown communities, which includes most CPS students. They started mutual aid groups and solidarity funds to help students and families who were experiencing hardship. Our union collaborated with My50 Chicago to televise lessons for families without Internet. Unfortunately, it did not feel like we had a strong partner in Chicago Public Schools, or in many charter organizations, where management stalled negotiations on remote learning — including Chicago International Charter Schools, where Shaw’s daughter Elizabeth is CEO.
CPS and many charter operators remain woefully underprepared for staff and students to return to buildings, and need substantial funding to create safe environments for students. But with the few weeks we have left in the summer, educators are working hard to prepare for remote learning — participating in professional development, researching websites and apps to help us teach remote effectively, creating digital lessons and classrooms, and overhauling curriculum to respond to the trauma our students have experienced the last several months.
We want children to learn and to be cared for in the midst of this pandemic, and we will continue to do our best to ensure that happens.
Jennifer Conant, math teacher, Chicago International Charter School — Northtown Academy
Home-based child care needs help
I appreciated Mark Brown’s column, “Preschool programs forge ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic but raise a warning flag.” I am a home-based family child care provider who continued to work during the mandatory shutdown to care for the children of essential workers.
Lack of access to PPE, low enrollment, and colleagues and loved ones becoming infected with COVID-19 are issues that affect not only centers, but home providers as well. Many of them are the heads of their households and depend on the income from their services to survive and pay loyal staff. Currently, there is little support being offered.
When school-aged children begin online learning, some of them will be in our homes. Nothing has been put in place to ensure that we have the technology, Wi-Fi access and support we will need to assist these children.
Home-based providers have safeguards in place for cleaning and sanitation, such as wearing PPE, monitoring temperatures, and social distancing. However, we need guidance and transparency. We need data on how COVID-19 is affecting the early childhood field so we can make informed decisions and monitor whether cases are on the rise.
Many providers are in a high-risk age group or have underlying health issues, and we are putting our very lives on the line.
Patricia Twymon, Calumet City
‘Contempt before investigation’
In response to Phil Kadner’s recent column on looting and violence, stating “ But why is it that people in Chicago have so little regard for human life?“ I ask: Why is it that those like Kadner tend to generalize an entire city due to the actions of a few?
Mr. Kadner, maybe you should personally visit some of the communities that you refer to. Talk to affected residents community leaders, activists such as myself, and see how we feel.
Norman Littlejohn, Kenwood