A song and a poem from Chicago sum up what the strike there is all about As the Chicago strike enters its fifth day, the song in the film above, and the poem below by a Chicago teacher do not only sum up the issues faced by teachers in Chicago. They will resonate with teachers all over the world: THE POLITICAL POEM THAT WAS BULLIED OUT OF ME By Molly Meacham I had never been small until I heard how evil I am for being a teacher. With the lie levels rising in newspapers, emails, interviews, announcements, the steady flood of anti- teacher propaganda dissolves dignity past patience until I am in- visible and taste of salt. Me— the frightening muse of room 202 is this incredible shrinking violet. I’ve often told students to absorb environment and squeeze it into writing, but I, hypocrite, cannot check my mail without earplugs and blinders now. There is always a top story that burns my cheeks ashen, and I am scattered by breath. But there’s no headline for me or for colleagues who’ve sold houses, who’ve taken on loans and grey-streaked temples to brace for the fight. These headlines are about these politicians, their pockets, and their pride. Articles full of double speak and forked tongue hissing. The mayor and the board deal students as playing cards in stacked decks. They know nothing of the kids themselves: Her grammar jokes, his zombie impression. That he’s afraid his father is never getting out of jail and his mom has breast cancer. That she is the first in her family to go to college and got a full ride. That he came out of the closet, and his mother is praying for evil to cease its possession. That she reinvents the world on the page and then stages it. These kids swirl in cutbacks, media overload, starved affections, and poetry. They swear and swagger and smile metal. The fact these kids are alive and breathing knowledge in deadly communities is more miracle than Lazarus rising. And they do—they baptize their papers in ink and wash drafts clean with red. They highlight, spotlight, moonwalk. I mean, they are teenagers…there are mad dashes through the halls, too many tardies and dress code violations. But they are green and sprouting: dandelions and dahlias, ivy, wisteria, and willows. I am a simple gardener, tilling with words, preparing the ground— loam, sand, silt, clay. The clay models itself into familiarity. Into the expression of understanding that’s unique to each child. The board wants me to see only numbers, to measure the kids with percentages, to see them as payment and value-added. But I am an English teacher. Numbers have never been my thing. I see that their learning is the shape of a yellow raft on a green river. We are the river dwellers. There is no salt in our water. It feels wrong to hate politicians who have never met me, but they made us feel miniscule—buzzing winged things like gnats or mosquitoes—for being teachers. It makes me hunger for Biblical retribution. So I will be an insect… in a plague of cicadas. We will be dressed as a river of blood, a torrent of chant and noise. There is no poem for this fight, for watching the mild mannered lose their voices from screaming chants, feet raw with marching. Hands, callused for chalk, will be rubbed with new blisters from holding signs. If we are faceless, let us be the drought, the blight, the salt in this freshwater city so our students will not be nameless, faceless scores in a city that hunts them for statistics. We will be living the politics. Not writing a poem. I invite you (and ask you) to stand with me, for them.