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Dealing With the Impact of the Teacher Strike

The strike is over. But for many educators and school personnel it will have lasting effects.

The Chicago Teacher Union and SEIU members returned to their schools and classrooms on Friday, November 1. Teachers and school personnel may no longer be on the picket lines, but the educators will feel the impact in the next weeks and months ahead.

Financially, the union workers on the picket lines will not get a full paycheck until after the holidays. Because school staff and teachers do not get paid when they are not in schools, they do not get paid when they are on strike nor during holidays. With Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving break, and winter break coming up, the next several paychecks that union members get will be small. This means several things for teachers. First, it will feel like teachers are working for nothing, because in the coming weeks that they are working, their pay will be zero or low. This low paycheck makes member feel like they are working for free. Many school personnel may be living paycheck to paycheck, and if something out of the ordinary happens, such as a car breaking down or a health issue, the financial strain on teachers will increase.

And, even though members were out on the picket line together, not everybody was in agreement with the strike. Some members even crossed the line and continued to work. These tensions on the picket line don’t end when the strike is over, and now all school staff need to work together to help educate students. If school staff aren’t getting along, students may feel the impact of this discord. Additionally, administrators were tasked with keeping schools going. Because of this, they were often demonized by the unions, even though, more often than not, administrators support what unions are fighting for. Many principals and assistant principals are former union members themselves and agree on the principles of what members are asking for.


Teacher standing with signs on strike
Photo by LaTerrian McIntosh on Unsplash

The impact on students is considerable. They lost 11 instructional days, putting them behind on year-end goals. But, for the most part, students will only be impacted by the strike if it negatively impacts their teachers and staff. Even so, students get mixed messages of what the strike was about. Through Twitter and the media, teachers can get a bad rap, sometimes demonized as greedy and out for themselves. Students don’t always get the correct notion of what the strike is about, and instead they get a biased view.

Mentally and emotionally, being on the picket line and out of work can be draining and it is an adjustment coming back to your typical routine. Many teachers love being in front of kids and not being able to be in their classroom is difficult. School staff does a lot to build routines in the beginning of the year and the strike can feel like a set back in many ways.

Despite all of this, the strike doesn’t have to be a setback for school staff and students. We’ve put together some ways to develop resiliency after the strike in your classroom and school.


  1. Ask for and be open to help

Don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues and family members for help, whether that be emotionally or financially. Many principals know what it is like to be on the picket line, and your colleagues are going through similar financial struggles. You never know, there may be ways to carpool and work together to reduce the financial and emotional burden in the months to come. It may also be time to start planning ahead and making a budget for yourself. Take a look at some resources for budgeting.


  1. Talk to your students about the strike

Ask your students to share what they know about the strike and what they did during the strike. Sharing some of the frustrations and sadness will allow students to feel less alone and isolated. Understand that they may have heard a more biased opinion or myth, but it’s important to share what the strike was about and what staff were fighting for. Use stories like Click Clack Moo or The Story of Ruby Bridges to discuss with your students the history of standing up for what they believe in.


  1. Keep Going

Students did miss 11 days of instruction, so don’t waste another minute. Attendance might be low but keep going with instruction and building skills. Maybe you don’t want to introduce something new, but review of concepts students learned in October can still be beneficial. Just because only a few students show up, those students came to learn and deserve instruction. Additionally, don’t let the strike be a reason that your students don’t do well and an excuse for the rest of the year; we’re back, let’s get moving!


  1. Build Relationships

Take time to connect and build relationships with your students. The strike was a difficult time for all parties involved. Let’s acknowledge each other’s struggle and grow from it. Take time to ask students how it impacted them and reach out to families, too. Everybody learns best when they are in relationship with others. If all students aren’t back in the classroom yet, take the time to build relationships with the ones who are!

Young boy sitting at table with female tutor

  1. Utilize breaks for yourself and students

The upcoming months are going to be tough. So let’s take care of ourselves. During prep periods, take time to reset and recharge. You may want to listen to soothing music or make a phone call home. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. When your students return after their lunch break, you can be calm and ready for them; Headspace offers free access to educators- take advantage. Give your students movement and mindfulness breaks—this will help them absorb your amazing instruction that is to come!


  1. Reset routines, rituals, and expectations in your classroom

Everyone was out for 11 days, so don’t assume that your students remember classroom procedures or expectations—this is a time great to review them. Be patient while students relearn routines and expectations. Take time to celebrate your students with rituals: “All About Me”, “Student of the Week,” or “Family Heritage Month.” Allow your classroom and curriculum to reflect your students.


  1. Have fun!

Everybody learns when they are having fun! Bring joy, music, and games into your classroom to get through the upcoming difficult months. Feeling down? Talk to your students about ways to cheer the whole class up.


  1. Be Self-Aware and Mindful

After the joy of returning to school wears off, the weeks and months ahead may be challenging. Be aware that your fuse may be short, or your frustration may bubble up more quickly. Take deep breaths before you respond to your students. Adopt a mindfulness practice before school and during your prep periods, try taking five deep breaths, listing gratitudes, or stretching and find out why people call mindfulness a superpower.


  1. Welcome everyone back!

Whether they are those who were on the picket line, supporting school administrators, a parent, or students, welcome everyone back to school. Everyone is happy to have students and teachers back in classrooms, where they belong! You can say things like “So glad you are back!” “We missed you!” or “Happy you are here!”.


Whether you are an administrator, teacher, aide or student we can all work to bounce back from the strike in a positive way if we are mindful, intentional and positive. Now that students and teachers are back in the classroom work in your school to build a fun learning environment for all.


Andrea Rosenberg leads Mercy Home’s Resilient Schools programming, that lead efforts to promote relational, resilience-focused, and trauma-responsive practices in Chicagoland elementary and high schools. The programming does this by developing teachers, staff and leaders who are skilled at creating safe and effective learning environments for all students regardless of trauma experience. If you’d like to learn more about the Resilient Schools programming and training for schools, visit our website and get in touch!

Young Men Serve Others Through Habitat for Humanity

There’s nothing like rolling up your sleeves, getting your hands dirty, and doing a hard day of physical work. It comes with a sense of pride and accomplishment that makes you feel good. And sometimes, the feeling is even better when it brightens the lives of others.

At Mercy Home, we want our kids to experience this feeling, and service projects with Habitat for Humanity provide the perfect opportunity. For more than a decade, Habitat for Humanity has empowered our kids to travel the country while making a real difference in the lives of people in need. They’ve visited places such as Kentucky, Maine, Ohio – and following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, they travelled to New Orleans numerous times to help those impacted by the devastation. And all along the way, they picked up new skills and felt the joy of helping others.

This past summer, our Habitat for Humanity service trip brought a group of young men and coworkers to Atlanta. After making the road trip south, the group was matched with a project doing renovations on the home of an elderly woman on a fixed income. This allowed our kids to have an immediate and intimate connection with the person they were helping.

“We were literally in this woman’s home with her and she was the sweetest person on the earth,” said Sasha Weinert, a milieu supervisor at Mercy Home who attended the trip. “She would pull the guys aside and talk to them and ask them why they’re coming here, and they got to share their stories with her.”

Working alongside professionals contracted by Habitat for Humanity, our youth contributed to the renovations by tearing down the kitchen ceiling and painting. For Taiveon, a young man at Mercy Home, this experience was different from the Habitat for Humanity projects he had worked on in the past.

“This was personal,” Taiveon said. “We were in her house while she was watching tv and we were working, and we were like, ‘we can’t mess this up, because this is all she has.’ It made me feel good.”

After three days, the group moved on to their next project, doing renovations on another home. This time, their work included power washing of siding, trim cleaning, and removing kitchen tiles.

“It was cool that the guys got to learn some real house maintenance skills,” Weinert said. “I think that was another great thing about helping someone do repairs on their home rather than just building a home from scratch.”

Though they picked up new skills along the way, the group spent time preparing themselves before the trip as well. Our friends at Walsh Construction even came by to show them how to use power tools and provided some general safety tips.

And while their trip was service-based, it was also an opportunity for our kids to experience the local culture. Prior to leaving, they researched Atlanta and voted on activities to participate in during the evenings. Some of their activities included a tour of Morehouse college, a visit to World of Coca-Cola, and a day at the waterpark.

They weren’t the only ones from Mercy Home who experienced the South this summer. Another group of youth participated in a trip called Justice Journey, travelling to Alabama and Georgia to visit key locations of the civil rights movement and visited Koinonia Farm in Americus, GA, where the idea for Habitat for Humanity was born in the mid 1970s.

In addition to learning new skills and experiencing new cultures, these trips provide an opportunity for staff and youth to develop closer bonds with one another.

“Everybody was paired with a person that they were going to share a room with,” Taiveon said. “Some people had people that they had never talked to, like for real talked to, so that created an experience of its own. In program it’s different – we’re here every day. But everybody was out of their element there, so it was fun.”

We couldn’t be prouder of our youth and coworkers for their hard work and generosity on these service trips. We are also grateful for our friends at Habitat for Humanity who continually provide tremendous opportunities for our kids to learn and grow.



Chicago Tribune Top Workplaces

Mercy Home Earns Tribune’s Top Workplaces Honor for 8th Straight Year

Mercy Home for Boys & Girls was again named among the top 100 places to work in Chicagoland by the Chicago Tribune for the eighth year in a row.

Giving Thanks Together

Mercy Home’s Friends First Mentoring Program held their annual Thanksgiving dinner and celebrated the season of giving together.