For over a week, we've all watched the teachers' strike unfold in Chicago.
Last Monday, around 26,000 teachers walked out in protest and suddenly left more than 350,000 students without schools to attend. Even today, classes in Chicago remain out of session.
At issue are three main points: the length of the school day, concerns over job losses and teacher evaluations being tied to student performance.
Here's the deal: teachers say it's not fair to be punished for poor student test scores. They argue students are impacted by their home life, poverty and other factors -- even a student skipping breakfast the day of an evaluation -- and that teachers do the best they can despite the obstacles.
Because of these evaluations, we have now developed a school culture that 'teaches to the test' and often doesn't provide opportunities to learn outside the classroom. In effect, we are phasing out field trips.
But there is a way to combine testing and real-life skills right now and maybe even lessen the pressure on America's teachers.
Know what it is?
Show and Tell.
If we drop into classrooms or attend a Career Day to share our knowledge, the effect could be huge on a group of bright-eyed, impressionable kids.
Are you a biologist? Go back to your old high school science class -- or any high school -- and tell teens about your line of work. More than that, explain how your job relates to what they're learning.
Social media manager? Visit a middle school and explain to all those tween texters why they need solid grammar skills in addition to fast-moving thumbs.
The goal is to pique students' interest in various fields and make them understand how solid evaluation scores can help them graduate and succeed in the real world.
Perhaps an inspiring show-and-tell from a stockbroker will stress the importance of math skills. Then, students begin to take math lessons more seriously and their test scores improve.
And if test scores go up, that may ease the burden on teachers.
By offering 'field trips' from inside the classroom, students can be exposed to all kinds of jobs and industries, and the cost to the school system is minimal.
All it takes is 30 minutes of our time.
And let's be honest. There are few ego boosts bigger than talking with kids in grade school. They idolize adults with cool jobs and hang on every word.
So now the crucial question: how do you schedule a presentation?
Every school has different policies, but the best way to start is to visit the school's Web site and e-mail the principal.
Feel free to use this sample:
Dear Principal ________-
My name is ____________, and I am a [your job] here in town. I am curious if any of your [math, social studies, etc..] teachers would be interested in me coming by for a short presentation on how [your specific skills] are important in the work world. I can show practical examples from my field and answer any questions they may have.
I think the students would appreciate a visit from someone in the real world, and maybe it will help drive home the lessons your teachers work so hard to convey. If there's an upcoming Career Day, I'd be happy to come to that instead.
Please let me know if you're interested.
Teachers have a tough job in Chicago and every other school system in America. Let's help them by simply sharing what we do with our lives.
Worst case? The students get a fun presentation to break up the day (and you get a captive audience).
Best case? We uncover a unique way to improve evaluation scores.
Have you ever spoken to a class about your job? How did it go, and how did you make it happen?
Or do you have a better way to help students raise their test scores?