November 10, 2017

Educators for Excellence-Chicago Hosts Teacher-Led Community Problem-Solving Forums to Strengthen School Climate & Culture

November 10, 2017 (Chicago) - Educators for Excellence-Chicago (E4E-Chicago), a teacher-led organization, hosted four community forums on November 8 and 9, bringing together nearly 100 participants, including E4E-Chicago educators, representatives from Chicago Public Schools and the Illinois State Board of Education, community organizations, and families to discuss how schools can better support students impacted by violence, poverty and trauma.

"As a first-grade teacher, I do my best to support my students. Unfortunately, the violence, trauma and poverty they experience can feel overwhelming for one person to navigate alone, all while teaching 28 six-year-olds how to read and add,” says DeJernet Farder, an E4E-Chicago member and teacher at Morton School of Excellence who attended the Austin Problem-Solving Forum. “It’s clear that the challenges so many Chicago students face are far bigger than any one teacher or even any one school. In order to provide all our students with all the resources and supports they need to succeed, we must come together as a broader community in a positive, solutions-oriented way.”

Located in four Chicago neighborhoods (Austin, Hyde Park, Lincoln Square and Little Village), the forums were an idea put forth in E4E-Chicago’s June 2017 teacher-authored policy paper, “Sounding the Alarm: Building the Climate & Culture Our Students Need,” which offered a set of recommendations to improve the social-emotional well-being of Chicago’s students.

“As a former teacher and principal, I know how impactful it can be when we provide opportunities for our schools, communities and families to interact and come together,” says Dr. Janice K. Jackson, Chief Education Officer at Chicago Public Schools. “We were so excited to be a part of these Problem-Solving Forums that gave us an opportunity to hear directly from educators and families about the needs of students, so we could work together to identify and unite around solutions that support all children to succeed.”

Dayna Heller, an E4E-Chicago member, diverse learning and humanities teacher at Roger C. Sullivan High School and an attendee at the Lincoln Square Problem-Solving Forum explains why teachers prioritized this recommendation from their paper and worked with CPS, community leaders and other education stakeholders to put it into action. “As a teacher, it's so easy to feel isolated within your classroom or school. But the reality is that all teachers, in all schools across the city face similar challenges, from the far south side to the west side and north side. We need to come together to listen, empathize and start to seek solutions together. No teacher should feel like an island."

“We know that what happens outside of the classroom has a profound impact on our students, and we know just how much the world outside can impact learning,” says Acasia Wilson-Feinberg, E4E-Chicago Executive Director. “We are grateful that so many community leaders came together this week to encourage collaboration across our city and to partner with our school communities. These are critical steps toward providing Chicago’s students with the resources and supports they need to succeed academically, socially and emotionally.”