Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Preparing for Union School: MTA Summer Conference

Next week I'll attend the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) Summer Conference. I have always found the conference to be a great educational event and I encourage MTA members to participate for one or more days of terrific professional learning and collegiality.

This year I'll focus my efforts on Union School which is the MTA's multi-day event focused on learning about the union. As the local union secretary and a member of the MTA's Teaching and Professional Learning Committee (TPL), I am interested in learning about the nuts and bolts of the MTA so that I can support local members with regard to their rights and opportunities as MTA members and help to forward terrific professional learning opportunities as part of TPL across the state.

A few years ago a colleague and I attended MTA's Next Generation Leadership Program. I learned a lot during the intense three-day weekend event and look forward to connecting with new Next Gen participants as well as alumni at the MTA Summer Conference as well.

What I hope to get out of Union School and the conference in general this time is the following:
  • Attending events related to advocacy and the work we need to do to forward a good education for all students in our State and beyond. I want to direct my time, writing and speak well in this endeavor.
  • Understanding union-related laws and opportunities with greater detail so that I can support our local union members well.
  • Thinking about how our local union uses communication, transparency and process to serve our membership well and develop our ability to teach all children well with voice, choice and leadership
  • Noting ways that I can support our local union leadership in ways that matter
  • Understanding our MTA leadership and decisions/events to come so I can be prepared to attend and interact thoughtfully
The single most important factor to me about being a union member is that the union protects free speech and advocacy. Without the union I could be easily punished or dismissed for advocating for students. With union support, I am able to stand up to advocate for children's and family's rights even if those rights are looked at as problematic, costly, bothersome or unimportant by others. 

I am also a fan of the union because it protects teachers' rights to receive a fair wage and work conditions. This too is very important. As a historically female majority profession, our working conditions and wages are often compromised. There continues to be a need to advocate for fair and equitable pay, work conditions and opportunity for all educators. In many ways, I am fortunate to work with good conditions, but many other educators suffer from tough conditions. 

Further the union helps us to collectively advocate for better education decisions and choices on broader national and global levels to support good efforts to uplift the profession. I believe that educators are "nation builders" and I believe that a high quality education for all children spells less violence, greater equity, more respect for one another, valuable innovation and protection of our natural lands, water and air. I see the promise that education holds, but know that we need a collective voice to advocate for support for education.

I am not a fan of old-time union myths and attitudes which say that unions support those who don't work hard--while I'm sure there's a few teachers that may not do the work expected as that's true of employees in any profession, I know that the vast majority of educators give their professional work significant time, energy, care and expertise--they've chosen the profession to make a difference in children's and family's lives. That's a positive motive to celebrate and support.

So while I don't like giving up a few days of summer sunshine to learn, I do like the experience and result of attending the MTA Summer Conference each year to boost my knowledge and ability to support individual and collective efforts related to teaching and learning well.