Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Teachers Like Me Support Unions

I have been a teacher, and a union (in Virginia, an association--we are a right to work state) member since 1978.  And I have stayed a member for a number of reasons.
The first reason: Everything that happens in my state house that concerns education concerns me.  (Look to Wisconsin for verification.)  And I do not have the time to read the bills that affect how my time in the classroom is spent.  I rely heavily on my association lobbyist to read those bills and let me know what might rob my students of resources.  This takes vigilance.  And if you think state law does not affect classrooms just look to our famed "King's Dominion law" which mandates that schools start after Labor Day (so teen employees can continue to work through the amusement park season) or the minute of silence and mandatory pledge of allegiance.  There are also mandatory lessons and courses, textbook adoptions, required professional development (most recently in recognizing child abuse and verifying our skill with technology--all good training, all association approved.), requirements for recertification, and windows for testing.
The teacher voice needs to be heard clearly.
My association provides that voice.
The second reason: I was the adviser for the school newspaper for seventeen years.  I never needed my association's lawyer's fees because, I hope, I was vigilant in making sure my students understood their - and my - responsibilities when putting something in print.  Even though I emphasized that we were not immune from liability laws just because we were in a schoolhouse, working with novices made me understandably nervous.  The association was a resource for peace of mind.
Finally, there is strength in numbers and the VEA has an active membership.  Though I have never lead beyond the building level, I have attended the state level meeting and truly seen democracy in action as the membership hammered out their positions from the floor of the convention hall.
Yes, I am a union (association) member and happy to see that the voices of classroom teachers is clear and loud.
It is sometimes all that stands between our children and the forces of politics.
Color me a lifelong union member.