I have always respected unions. It's probably because I grew up in a working class neighborhood where many people were union members. From early conversations at the dinner table, I saw the positive power of people coming together to stand up for the rights of the working person.
So when I became a teacher 30 years ago, I automatically joined the union. Over the years, what I have liked best about the union is that it has protected my freedom of speech. Free speech allows me to speak up respectfully when I see room for positive change. Free speech allows me to advocate for a child who may need new or different services and support. Free speech has also allowed me to share my practice with others.
Unions like any organization aren't perfect. I also learned the lesson of imperfect organizations at a young age. We talked a lot about church in our house, and my dad would always say that churches are made by people and people aren't perfect so neither are churches. It was easy to apply my dad's rationale to any organization anywhere. We make up organizations as individuals, and the work we do as an organization is only as good as the collaboration and individual efforts of the people in it.
I often disagree with my local and State union. There have been many times when I would have done it differently or that I've spoken up for a point of view different than the union. Most recently I supported Charlie Baker for governor while the union supported the democratic candidate. For many reasons, I wanted Baker to win the election, and was happy when he did. I'm also a favor of the PARCC test rather than backtracking to MCAS. Because the PARCC is computerized and tests at a deeper level, I think it's more facile and forward moving. I also hope it costs less money to give and score so that we can use that money to boost technology access in every school in our state.
I often agree with the Union too. I like the way that they stick up for teachers so they can do their best work for children.
We need unions. In this complex world, we can't go it alone if we want to make positive, substantial change. We have to work together to make that change. We also have to contribute to our unions and speak up too.
Not only should you join the union, but you should read its website, your contract, and other related information. Be an informed union member. Know your rights, and know how the system works. Also, use the union's services. Call upon them when you have questions and when you have ideas. They may not always answer, but it's your union so you have a right to be respectfully persistent.
Early in my union membership, I served as a representative. Then when life got busy with young children, I stepped down from that role. This year, I'll step into that role again. I want to be an active member of my union, and my goal in that role is to help support my teaching colleagues so they have the respect, salary, schedule, support, and freedom to do their jobs as educators with as much skill and commitment as possible.