“I’ve been teaching for 15 years. I was part of the 50 schools closings [in 2013].

“I remember being really involved with the [Chicago Teachers Union], even getting on the news for them.

“Even during that time, it just seemed as though we were placed there to show, ‘Hey we’re equitable. Here look, we’re putting the black and brown people up in front.’ We’re props. And after it’s said and done, no one checks in on you. We’re utilized.

“I started to look at my values more and see the overall picture. I started to [think], ‘Why are you telling us what to do when we’re the ones paying you? You’re giving us directives and orders like this is a second employer.’ That’s where I drew the line.

“I’m so happy I [opted out]. I’m at peace. Because I don’t want to be part of anything like that.

“I didn’t believe in [the CTU strike]. I’m aware of the budgetary deficit and the fiscal responsibilities of the city. I’m a new homeowner and I’m not liking the idea of a [property tax] increase. I’m the type of person who tries to see things from different sides and do research. I don’t just follow.

“Not only do I love the children that I work for, but it’s about my own children too, and my own family.

“I have a 19-year-old and a 7-year-old. I’m trying to inform my [children] about leadership and how to make decisions. Why would I interrupt that? There’s no way. “My 7-year-old son is a [Chicago Public Schools] student. I was very embarrassed. I was like, ‘Did I make a terrible decision bringing him into CPS? Is this what’s going to happen every five years, or every election?’

“I think they taught a very horrible lesson to the children about going to war with people that don’t agree with you. I decided to [cross the picket line]. [The strike] didn’t fit with the values that I have.

“Teachers were screaming ‘scab’ very loudly. Then the next day, all these teachers were lined up in the parking lot waiting for me. They were lined up on both sides. It got scary. I get out of the car, and a lady is screaming at me, ‘You are a scab.’

“These are teachers I work with on a daily basis who profess anti-bullying.

“I don’t believe in any system that keeps children away from education, children that are already underserved, disenfranchised. That’s decreasing their chances even further.

“I think we need to start questioning and challenging union leadership and hold them accountable. Anybody who tries to take your time, stop your money flow and stop you from getting to a better situation is not worth it. There’s no positivity in that.

“I have no fear. I don’t believe in that. Anybody who cares about you wants the best for you.”

Ifeoma Nkemdi
Chicago, Illinois