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Friday, May 13, 2016

The MTA Annual Meeting: First Impressions

I attended the Massachusetts Teachers Association Annual Meeting for the first time. It's amazing that I've been teaching for thirty years, but just experiencing this amazing show of democracy, activism, and solidarity for the first time. I'd advise younger teachers to get involved sooner than later.

It was great to hear so many bright, dedicated, and confident educators get up to express questions and ideas. It was also wonderful to vote for so many thoughtful ideas and resolutions. I was inspired by the many educators running for MTA office as well.

There was a lot of discussion about charter schools and the facts and figures that point to the troubles lifting the cap on charter schools could bring, troubles such as the following:
  • privatization of public schools
  • a two-tiered system of education, a system of have's and have not's
  • loss of local control over schools and local funds
  • poor working conditions and pay for charter school employees
  • inadequate training and credentials of some staff
As I listened, I wondered about the following questions:
  • will private organizations serve the public good and use public monies appropriately?
  • whose voices are represented by charter schools run by private organizations?
  • who profits when charter schools are run by private organizations?
  • ultimately what will be the affect on neighborhoods, communities, and the State if the number of charter schools grow?
  • how do charter schools affect the role of schools as the foundation of our democracy?
There was also discussion about the role of the union as a professional organization. What is our duty as union members? 

I believe that as union members and educators we have an obligation to put children first in our work. In this regard, I also believe that fair working conditions and good salaries allow educators to do well by students. Further, I believe that educators have to advocate for autonomy, mastery, and purpose so that they can serve students well. When educators are limited by unrealistic mandates, lack of voice/choice, and expectations that take them away from the good work possible then their impact is limited. 

I believe government, educators, and communities have to work together to promote the best possible education for every child. The way this is done has to represent the best of what schools can be. The best way to create this positive collaboration is for every educator to advocate for what is right and good when it comes to teaching well. 

I'll return to the meeting tomorrow to learn more. Onward.