By Elizabeth Evans
Founder, New Voice Strategies and VIVA Teachers
The Chicago White Sox is my team; grinder ball is my inspiration. Work hard, aim for the best, but win the game no matter how. So, imagine how my heart soared when Phil Humber threw that perfect game on Saturday–only the 21st time in league history a pitcher pitched a perfect game.
We haven’t had quite the same success in education reform in Chicago, but VIVA teachers here are batting .500. By education reform standards, that very nearly equates to a perfect game.
Like my beloved White Sox, whose marketing motto this year is the decidedly uninspiring “appreciate the game,” we had little more than high hopes going into our work with CPS. The result has been as wonderful and inspiring as Phil Humber and crew.
That’s because a group of ordinary CPS teachers who have the same grit and determination as the White Sox showed the same determination to play by the rules, and achieved something extraordinary. And they made their mark, just like Phil Humber and the guys.
VIVA Teachers asked CPS classroom teachers to tell us what they thought about time in school—how CPS could do better by students and what they as teachers needed. Their ideas were as amazing as that perfect game—six big ideas and 49 specific suggestions for how to use time in school better. To date, the school system has adopted three of those big idea recommendations:
1. Have students attend school on revered school holidays, including Pulaski Day. (Who’s Casimir Pulaski, you ask? A hero to Chicago’s huge Polish population. If you want to know more, look here or here for a start.)
2. Alter the school year schedule to give students a six-week summer break, more uninterrupted time the rest of the year, and intersession offerings for deeper work.
3. Give all children–even the ones who attend underperforming schools–time for unstructured free play every day. After all, they said, the research shows it helps kids learn and, besides, recess should be a human right for children, darn it.
In a world where many expect teachers to ask for less time in school, their stand is as bold as Phil Humber and his teammates who worked together to make a perfect game happen. Equally bold, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and Mayor Emanuel heard what these busy classroom teachers were saying. They listened. And they made changes.
Like Phil Humber and the White Sox, these awesome Chicago Public School teachers made the unimaginable real. That’s why I love baseball and that’s why I am so proud of our work at VIVA Teachers.