I was once quite active in my local union. About two years ago, however, weird stuff started happening. Things I didn’t agree with. First, we paid a “group” to work on our new contract. I found this strange since we’d never supplemented this action before, including, I was told, times when striking had HAD to happen. However, we were told, they had worked “really hard.” Hmmm.
Then I was asked to work on the school calendar committee. We had four meetings, close to the deadline, were told NOT to discuss it outside the group, etc. Imagine my surprise when I was openly asked after the first meeting about the calendar and what had been proposed? More than that, it was pretty much already hammered out in closed-door meetings between union leadership and our district office. Our jobs? To sign off and lend credibility to the process. I was just sick with it. Literally, I ended up with pneumonia and only attended 1.5 meetings. It didn’t matter though, and that hurt like hell. I was blamed for the calendar because MY name was on it.
Finally, we ended up being told to NEVER speak against a colleague to a superior. It didn’t matter our opinions, we were to stand strong and support each other. All of a sudden it seemed we were not longer teachers, we were teamsters. I’d gone into union leadership hoping to have a “physician, heal thyself” impact. No institution is perfect, and it seemed to me we had room to grow and improve. Nope. SAY NOTHING, DO NOTHING. What I heard in my head was “stonewall.” Yep, that’s effective.
I admit it. I quit. I walked away. I was tired of the same old, same old. We were going through motions, not solving problems. I have never been a huge one for status-quo, even when I’m guilty of it. We all need to pushed out of our comfort zones. However, I was not staying to rubber stamp stuff I didn’t believe in.
Now I really am sick with the process. I believe in the power of people coming together, but it only works well with great leaders. Our current leader is not great. I would suggest he’s barely mediocre; however, there is not evidence for any judgment. No more do we get financial updates, minutes of board meetings, calendars of how the president’s time is spent. I do know there’s a lot of complaints about the benchmark tests, which take a huge amount of capital to design, deliver, analyze, and assess. Do I think we’ve recouped that capital in test scores? No. Do I have a better solution? No. In my mind, however, we would be creating a system that actually works. I can’t see that we are because I don’t go to the meetings. Nothing from the meetings is shared. There you go.
I do know this president will take ideas and run with them. I recall years ago finding it odd that our contract had such weird differences in contact time. I had just started and it made no sense to me that teachers in grades 4-12 had less contact than teachers in grades 1-3. I was told it was because those grade had had class size reduction. Really? We’re talking education. It seems to me that a school day should be consistent. I made that well-known, often in talks with our now president. Low and behold, come our last contract everyone went to 1400 contract minutes. What a miracle! I had been saying it for years, and when we were in a crunch it came to pass.
Unfortunately, this president doesn’t appropriately value primary teachers. Here’s what I know for sure about teaching. If everything works K-2 (and hopefully there is preschool) then teaching 3-12 is gravy. Honestly, if you have students who know how to read, have math facts fluency, and are not afraid of thinking, your test scores will be AMAZING.
Yet, here he was complaining that kindergarten teachers “don’t even teach a full day”. Yet, kindergarteners need TONS of movement and activities. Hell, kindergarten is the new first grade (Disclaimer: I went to half-day, afternoon kindergarten in the early 70s. We PLAYED, had a snack, and took naps. It ain’t like that today!) meaning they are expected to leave reading, writing, and working basic math calculations. They also go all day now. At that, you need an activity for every 10-15 minutes. Now, calculate 5 hours times 4 to 6. Yes, that means kindergarten teachers plan for 20-30 activities DAILY. If it’s that easy, YOU DO IT.
But he’s a math teacher. A high school math teacher. One who miscalculated and messed up our release time when I worked in elementary. It really caused huge trauma for everyone. Now, either he’s an IDIOT or that was done ON PURPOSE. Given what I know about him… It was deliberate. We looked like fools — moronic fools trying to make the district foot the bill for our mistake. Needless to say, it didn’t effect him. Then again, in his mind elementary teachers don’t work very hard.
I would not be surprised if he works to become a district superintendent. I’ve never felt like his rise to power was to better our union, schools or academic leadership. I’ve always felt that it was to bring us down, restructure pay (so that high school teachers, who do the MOST work, get more), and damage everything good that came before him.
In my soul, he’s working to bust our union. And we’re letting him.