I recently dropped an activity which I have been part of since I started teaching — being a union rep. It is something I used to feel passionate about. I loved advocating for others, the social justice of it all, and making sure that there was equity in the workplace. With few exceptions, I really don’t believe that management is the “enemy”. That said, I think that Robert Frost was brilliant when he wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Amen to that brother.
The fact is boundaries set the relationship. It is as Ann Landers said, “You teach others how to treat you.” Contracts are like fences. They outline the boundaries between two distinct properties, allowing the owners to feel secure in knowing when and where a breach occurs. This is why there are teaching contracts. With them we are constantly being asked what more we can do to make sure kids are “making it.” Without them, our lives would be micromanaged 24/7. I find it fascinating that the general public feels no qualms about wanting students in school from 8-4. Then tutoring or after school care should be provided — by teachers. When, however, are we to spend time recharging our batteries, being with our families and friends, or taking care of other school or life business?
This decision was not an easy one. It was a mixture of feeling very under-appreciated in my current situation and the realization that I can’t do everything I might want to do without sacrificing the ones I love. I want our K-8 program to succeed. I don’t feel we have all the resources to do it given the current political and economic environment. New programs need a lot of love, attention, analysis, and revision. To see the fruits of our labors, we will have to wait until our 2nd or 3rd generation graduate. That’s hard.
However, I was reassured when I read a post from Choice Literacy about knowing when to say yes, when to say no, and when to say not yet. It was empowering to know that things I’m not yet ready to do for our program are not defeated goals, but merely deferred ones. However, in order to give them due justice, I have to say no to something.
For now it is the one area when I feel completely out of sync and unsuccessful — that of being a rep. While I may return to it, I have to say for now, not yet.