Unions fight for higher pay, better health care, a sensible retirement plan, and job protections that benefit teachers like me. Because these things are in my economic and personal self-interest, I support the teachers’ unions that have brought us to where we are today and who will continue to fight for these things in the future.
Here are a few things the Baltimore Teachers Union does for me and teachers like me. The BTU just negotiated a new contract this year which provides teachers with paths of career advancement (and higher salary) within the teaching profession, based on relevant coursework, taking on additional roles and responsibilities, and/or just demonstrating how great a teacher you are.
The BTU also protects teachers from capricious and unreasonable demands/decisions/firings by administrators. They have negotiated in past and present contracts that teachers cannot be forced by administrators to teach more than two preps. I have seen teachers burn out and leave teaching due to the unsustainable amount of work that goes into planning for and delivering three entirely new, entirely separate ninety-minute lessons / courses every day, not to mention all the other non-teaching responsibilities a teacher has.
I am proud to stand with an organization that supports my self-interest, especially when more powerful interests in education sometimes act in opposition to my and my students’ interests.
2. On Principle.
Unions are a collective of teachers who have organized so as to give teachers stronger voice than they would have individually. Too often teachers voices are lost in a school system where decisions are made by the higher-ups. In that system, a single teacher’s voice does not count for much, especially since the principal is your boss and has the power of hiring, firing, docking pay, or making your life miserable. But together, we can be heard. Teachers standing together in a union can raise common concerns shared by teachers, can resist abuses of authority by the higher-ups, and can shift the balance of power toward the less-powerful.
3. In the interest of students.
Now some people argue that, by their focus on helping teachers, unions lose sight of the real goal of education: helping students. While this is possible and has indeed happened, let me remind you that school administrators also act in ways that do not help students, that district administrators also act in ways that do not help students, that politicians who set education policy in this country also act in ways that do not help students.
So who among the adults have interests most closely aligned with students? While exceptions occur, in general the answer is very clearly teachers!
The teachers are closest level in the school hierarchy to students. We interact with students every day, for hours at a time. If you have happy teachers you have happy students. I trust teachers (and our unions who are our collective voice) to advocate for students and to take actions that help students learn. I trust teachers more than I would trust school principals, since they at more of a remove from the day-to-day process that is education. I trust teachers and school administrators to speak for students’ interests far more than I would trust district-level administrators. And I trust teachers and all administrators far far more than I would trust the politicians in DC to get the education of our students right.
So, for these reasons, I stand today in solidarity
So, for these reasons, I stand today in solidarity with teachers in Wisconsin and elsewhere who are fighting for their right to have unions with collective bargaining powers. Who are facing off against state and federal governments that prioritize tax cuts for the rich and spending on the military over the rights of the working class and the education of our nation’s children.
A la lucha (onward to the struggle),
Math and Engineering Teacher
P.S. Read other teachers’ stories at http://www.edusolidarity.us/