Monday, November 30, 2015

Do You Exemplify the National Education Association's Union Values?

Do you exemplify your union's values? Do you even know what those values are? In an age when unions are often demeaned, it's important that union membership understand the union mission, vision, and values well.

As part of the NEA/MTA Teacher Leadership Initiative, I was asked to study the National Education Association's Vision, Mission, and Values. When I studied the values, I was proud to be part of an organization that has such a wonderful list of core values. I was also challenged by the vision, mission, and values as I evaluated my own practice against those values. I wondered, "Do I exemplify work that matches the NEA's core mission, vision, and values?" Below I use the NEA document to both analyze my work and set future goals.

NEA Vision
"Our vision is a great public school for every student."
The private school movement in our country is strongly rooted. Many choose private schools to get an edge for their children, belong to a particular community, and/or to provide their children with a more tailored approach to education in top-notch facilities. Are we able to reproduce that for every child in America in our public schools? I believe it is in our nation's best interests to build top-notch public schools for every child who chooses public education. Communities and states that invest in strong, innovative, and student-centered schools will find that they have less crime, greater success, and stronger communities. Public schools are a terrific investment. Yet we will lose this investment if citizens and leaders do not support public schools. I want to support leaders that support public education. 

NEA Mission
"Our mission is to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world."
Public education has a real edge over private education when it comes to helping students succeed in a diverse and interdependent world. A weakness of most private schools is their lack of diversity with respect to culture or economics. Public schools prepare students for the real world, and I have noted that students from high quality, diverse public schools are better ready to lead and work in our diverse society. I do think, however, that our public schools have to continue to work at the charge "to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world" since there is a lot more that we can do to meet this challenge. I know that our faculty will focus on this topic Tuesday. I also want to focus my work more deeply in this arena.

NEA Core Values
  • Equal Opportunity: "We believe public education is the gateway to opportunity. All students have the human and civil right to a quality public education that develops their potential, independence, and character." How often do we focus our faculty meetings on the goal of developing student "potential, independence, and character." These are valuable words and goals and should be objectives in the work we do together as educators in schools. 
  • A Just Society: "We believe public education is vital to building respect for the worth, dignity, and equality of every individual in our diverse society." This is what makes our country great, and we can't lose sight of this. How do we as educators develop respect for the worth, dignity, and equality of every individual in our schools?
  • Democracy: "We believe public education is the cornerstone of our republic. Public education provides individuals with the skills to be involved, informed, and engaged in our representative democracy." How do we provide opportunities for every student to be involved, informed, and engaged in our schools? If we do this well our country will profit from many voices and significant personal contribution and investment. 
  • Professionalism: "We believe that the expertise and judgement of education professionals are critical to student success. We maintain the highest professional standards, and we expect the status, compensation, and respect due all professionals." How do we foster professional process, respect, behavior, and community in the schools where we teach and serve children?
  • Partnership: "We believe partnerships with parents, families, communities, and other stakeholders are essential to quality public education and student success." How do we build partnerships? How often do we survey and work with partners to develop stronger bonds and support for education? 
  • Collective Action: "We believe individuals are strengthened when they work together for the common good. As education professionals, we improve both our professional status and the quality of public education when we unite and advocate collectively." We cannot effect meaningful change by ourselves; we need to work together to make change that positively affects student learning and living. 
  • "Every student in America, regardless of family income or place of residence, deserves a quality education." How do we create conditions of excellence including quality teaching, safe schools, and better places to learn for every child in our country? 
I have no problem standing behind the challenging and affirming NEA values. I agree that public schools are the cornerstone of our democracy, and together we can serve our nation's children well by supporting our public schools and the mission, vision, and values above. Now the challenge is to embed the NEA's values into my work every day.