World & Nation

CPS students at the Tribune’s The Mash: “I want pop quizzes. I want school lunch on a plastic tray.”

The walkout staged by Chicago Public Schools teachers this week had a ripple effect on thousands of children throughout the city. Among them are the high school students who work for The Mash, the Chicago Tribune’s teen publication and journalism program.

You can see photos and videos taken by the students at

Several of The Mash’s teen reporters were at schools, at home, and even on picket lines Tuesday, the second day of the strike, and they shared some of their views and observations.

-- Phillip Thompson, Editor, The Mash


The students:

During this strike we are encouraged to be productive. We are encouraged, as students, to take initiative and go to school sites. We’re encouraged to get ahead in our classes. But I’ve done quite the opposite.

I’ve been sleeping in, watching movies, bowling, babysitting my little sister -- and just taking time to relax.

The first week we were in school, I’d been pushing myself, keeping organized in case the teachers did strike. Just in case the strike didn’t happen, I got all my homework taken care of this past weekend. I’ve been checking online to see if the school website has been updated. And, most importantly, I’ve been relaxing. With a 7:45 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. school day, the week becomes draining and monotonous. A break can rejuvenate an organized or overachieving student so they come back to school more motivated and recharged.


So perhaps the most productive thing to do during the strike is to be unproductive. Does that strike you as surprising?

-- Emma Seslowsky, Lincoln Park High School

I stand with the Chicago Teachers Union for better teaching conditions as they’ll make for a better learning environment.

But I’m not so enthused about this time off.


I realize what the CPS teachers are doing is important, but it’s just such an odd way to start of the school year. It’s pretty surreal. I saw a video of some teachers picketing out in front of my school and it looked like something straight out of a movie. It’s creepy -- all of a sudden the teachers aren’t in charge, it’s the strangest flip-flop.

I’ve taken this “fall break” time to get going on my college essays. And this extra time, I must admit, has been nice -- I’ve gotten a lot of work done. But I’m hoping this gets sorted out soon.

Quick prediction, though: When we get back, at least one teacher will tell us, “Well, this has been a great learning experience!”

-- Marisa Spiegel, Walter Payton College Prep


On Sunday night, while waiting for the final verdict on the decision for the strike, I was reading through my news feed on Facebook. I was so angry at the many posts that my classmates were making. All they could do was think about themselves and whether or not they would be able to pass their AP exams. I’m not dismissing the importance of our education and test scores, but do they not realize that if our teachers are not treated fairly, they cannot pass on their knowledge to us?

It’s not just about the money. They are fighting for us to have better materials, smaller class sizes and a better curriculum—not just a longer school day.

The Board of Education and Mayor Emanuel are depriving us from funds and resources by using this money on a contingency plan when they could have used it to pay our teachers.

Monday morning at 6:30, I spent my day supporting Chicago Public Schools teachers at Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez Elementary School. My mother would bring me there every summer to volunteer and help the teachers out. The teachers were chanting, singing and making lots of noise to get the attention of parents.


Then in the afternoon, we arrived downtown about an hour before a rally at the Board of Education building was officially going to start at 3:30 p.m. There were already tons of teachers blocking Clark and other streets to make sure they caused a scene.

On Tuesday, I also attended the rally downtown with my mom and plan to join the union protests again. I support the Chicago Teachers Union and I’m so appreciative to have them and many other people caring about public school students.

-- Andrea Limon, Kenwood Academy





Being on strike isn’t really as fun as most CPS students make it sound. Getting back into the swing of school is hard once, but having to do it twice will be even more difficult. While many kids are celebrating the strike as another vacation, I’m still trying to do as many school-related things as possible.

I don’t want the strike to derail my senior year, so I’m still applying to schools and looking up scholarships all from home. I’m not attending one of the open schools, nor are any of my friends.


I agree with the reasons for striking, I just hope it is resolved soon so I can continue with my senior year and get back to school.

-- Josh Kalamotousakis, John F. Kennedy High School

The strike was looming on my conscious since the beginning of summer and though there was always talk about it, I never really expected it to happen. Fortunately, when it did happen, the football team I’m on and our school made plans. During the strike the football team moved practices to another location and my teachers gave us assignments to work on. Though the strike has left our team and our school in limbo, I believe it’s right to do whatever is necessary for the teachers to be treated fairly.

-- Andres Luz, Whitney Young


Chicago Public Schools has a contingency plan for students whose parents can’t stay home with them during the strike, made available to students from elementary through high school. However, I don’t know any students my age who are attending the opened schools. The majority of my friends are treating the strike days merely as days off, and I am too.

Being that the most of us had odd sleep schedules during the summer, a lot of us are using this time off to recuperate from being awake early every day for school. Others are out taking advantage of the nice weather to play sports or explore the city, to experience downtown in a time when they would normally be in school.

A good amount of my friends are also out supporting their teachers as they strike. Azucena C., a senior at Curie and a good friend of mine, has been actively explaining to other students why the teachers are striking, as well as supporting the teachers in their downtown rallies.

We students have to deal with the majority of these teachers on a daily basis, so we know how much they struggle. Out of all my CPS friends, very few have been unsupportive of the strike. While students like Azucena may be supporting teachers with picket signs and screams, many of us are also supporting our teachers in spirit and heart from home.


-- Barbara Cruz, John Hancock High School

Last week I discussed the possibility of a strike with many of my teachers, one of whom became a physics teacher after being an engineer and who gave me some new perspective. As a father, he would not want his son’s teachers to become teachers for the money but because they, like he, want the opportunity to shape the minds of the future. Yet at the same time, he said he fears that under current conditions our school systems will no longer be able to attract the best of the best, putting CPS students at a disadvantage.

As a senior, much of my summer vacation revolved around college preparation, and despite my complaints of how my summer felt like an extension of school, two days of staring at the walls and studying for the SATs have just about cured my cravings for freedom.

Never in my life have these words been more true: I want to go to school. I want homework. I want tests. I want pop quizzes on stuff I can’t remember so that when I fail I never forget. I want school lunch on a plastic tray. I want face time with my counselor and my teachers and most of all: I want to be able to go to college.


While I completely support my teachers and counselors in their efforts to ensure that they are able to support themselves and their families, my applications for an admissions forum at the University of Illinois-Chicago are due by Thursday, which puts me and my peers at a disadvantage.

I consider my counselor and teachers to be people who know me in a way that I might not even know myself. I look to them for advice, knowing they will not try to change the meaning behind my words, but ensure that my work is the best it can be. Now, as I scramble to find peers and other adults to edit my college essay, I’m unsure it’ll be my best work.

-- Shantae Howell, Walter Payton College Prep

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