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General CTU Announcement
Chicago Public Schools wants remote instruction to look like, and sound like, in-person instruction. Our members, however, feel that there should be innovation specific to remote learning that works for the needs of all educators and families.
Between now and the start of classes, we will be sharing testimonials from CPS parent-educators on what they see as best practices for remote learning, and how our district needs to adapt accordingly to properly serve all school communities.
Nora Flanagan is an English teacher at Northside College Prep and wife of a Chicago firefighter. She has two sons who are students in Chicago Public Schools. Here she relates to the challenges of being a working CPS parent, and explains how equity, empathy and flexibility must be front and center in any worthwhile remote learning plan.
I teach at a CPS high school that serves students from every corner of Chicago. My older son is starting high school this fall, and my younger son will be in 5th grade. To further complicate things, my husband works 24-hour shifts as a firefighter. Remote teaching and learning was ROUGH some days: my younger son struggled to sit still for his two-hour stretches of Google Meets, my older son fought his way through algebra lessons and physics labs at our kitchen table, and I wrangled five sections of three different English classes. All of us felt like we were always forgetting something. I worried my students didn't have what they needed for school, or even to stay safe and healthy. I worried about my sons' mental health as they grappled with homework, a pandemic, missing their friends, knowing their parents were stressed.
One of my sons has an IEP, and I watched his resource teacher work like crazy to get her students what they needed. Some days, the kindness in her voice or her start-of-class check-ins would literally make me cry from across the room. I knew how hard she was working to support her students, and I could tell how much she missed them and wanted to do whatever she could to get them through this. (Thank you, Ms. Butler!)
That's all of us. We might not have had all the answers last spring, but we didn't stop looking and trying and hustling to help our students. That's how many of us have spent our summer, too. We know remote learning was a struggle this past spring, and we want to do better for our students and their families. We did what we could, and we know we can do more, now that we have time to prepare.
More than anything, we need flexibility—as parents, teachers, and students. Students need a range of ways to show what they're learning, softer deadlines, and compassion from their teachers when it comes to how they engage. Parents need clearer, accessible ways to support their children's learning; families need help accessing and using new platforms and apps, and they need schools to understand that household schedules continue to be chaotic. Teachers need CPS and building administrators to trust us with a variety of teaching and assessment approaches. We know our students, and we are as invested in their success as we are for our own children. We need support in learning and applying new tech, and we need every level of staff member keeping an eye on equity issues, because equity issues impact everything.