Sunday, October 15, 2017

Teachers Union Focus and Opportunity

I am proud to be a member of the Wayland Teachers Association (WTA), Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), and National Education Association (NEA). Data demonstrates that states with strong teachers' unions have strong education programs. I value this reality. Further I like what the teachers unions at the local, state, and national level can do to help me uplift my practice in ways that matter.

At the state and national level, the teachers' unions are continually lobbying for legislation, policies, and supports that uplift teaching and learning for all students. As Diane Ravitch's famous quote states, "Teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions." Anyone who has read anything about education knows that good schools lead to strong nations, and strong nations make the time to support optimal teaching/learning well. As education goes, the USA is loosing step to other nations that are doing a better job overall to foster optimal teaching and learning. Fortunately I teach in Massachusetts, a state that takes education seriously and a state with both a strong department of education and a strong teachers' union. Our students are making good gains, and our state and teachers' union are not sitting idly by, but instead continuing to look for ways to better our schools through advocacy, debate, research, professional learning, and more.

The state and national unions also host a large number of events, websites, and outreach to help educators develop their practice to teach well. These supports are valuable to educators who seek to teach well. The supports are typically affordable and easily accessible. This is equally important to educators who have busy schedules and tight budgets.

At the local level, our union helps to form a positive agreement for teachers' working conditions. We work in conjunction with leadership to solve problems and forward the potential that exists. Our local union focus is admirable, and one that, I believe, teachers everywhere would be willing to embrace as its focused on the good work possible:

As I work with the local union as a representative and secretary, my aim is to help with regular communication and a resourceful up-to-date website to support educators' efforts and aim. As I think of the direction of our local union, I hope we can foster greater momentum with regard to systematic effort, regular inclusive and transparent communication, greater educator voice and choice, and the continued positive, inclusive, and values-driven system development and success. Teachers in the system where I work are proud to teach and generally go well above the call of duty to serve students and families. This is one reason that I've stayed in my role in the system for so long.

In all levels of the union, I find that my voice is regarded with respect and that all points of view are welcome and considered. Our unions are not uniform in that we expect all teachers to be exactly the same or agree on all issues. Instead our unions are democratic bodies with lots of debate and discourse about what's important when it comes to what is right and good for students, their families, schools, and educators. Unlike the preconceptions about unions that often occur, our unions actually serve to elevate our practice and supports so that we have what we need to teach well.

What is your role with regard to the unions you belong to or the unions that support the teachers who serve your students and community? How can the unions better serve you, and how can you better support and advise unions? I am a proud union member and a proud member of the local and state school systems. Teachers can't do their best work if they go it alone; we need the support of dedicated groups that support what we need to do our jobs well, and unions are one of the most important groups that support teachers and children. When system, state, national, and community leadership are willing to work with unions, a win-win situation occurs that fosters betterment for all. I support this kind of positive collaboration and effort rather than the adverse relationships that sometimes occur due to close mindedness, ego, and will for greater power.

Are you a union member or are you a community member who supports unions? How can you work with the union to better teaching/learning opportunities for all? Where do you think your union and its supports can change to affect betterment? I'm thinking about these questions, and invite your commentary if interested. I look forward to discussing these questions with colleagues, community members, and friends in the days to come.