I have been a member of a team for as long as I can remember. Whether it was a part of a sports team, student council, or a workplace team. I have had the opportunity to be a part of some amazing teams. Over the past year, I have become more involved with two teams: the Professional Educators of Norman (PEN) and Team #oklaed.
PEN is a local affiliate of the Oklahoma Education Association…it is my union. Over the next 6-weeks leading up to the “Oklahoma’s Rally for Education” on March 31, many teachers will be labeled as greedy union members (I blogged about this last week).
Now, before you want to wash my mouth out for using the “U-word”, please let me explain why I am an active member of my union.
A strong education union will promote solidarity throughout the organization’s members. I honestly feel that education unions allow teachers to think of the collective. From my experience, rookie teachers and veteran teachers come together to fight for issues that affect all teachers. One of our many issues that we are fighting for, is to keep our pension system the way that it is currently setup. We do not need to move to a defined contribution system, because we already have voluntary contribution systems in place: such as 403(b) and 457 plans. It is a way for other individuals, previously affiliated with Enron, to gain profit from Oklahoma educators.
Some other issues that we are fighting for are increased funding and teacher salary. I get extremely frustrated when people label teacher unions as greedy and selfish when we fight for an increase in salary. Unlike most professions, we cannot approach our bosses for an individual wage increase. Most large-district professional organizations create a bargaining team to negotiate with the district. It’s important that the union acts a team for what is in the best interest of the students and teachers. Let us not forget that schools are inhabited with students AND teachers, and we must take action to increase morale for both populations. I feel that my professional organization works toward this goal.
I joined a union to also provide me with protection. I think that it is especially important for all special education teachers to join a union, because of the possibility of a parent initiating Due Process. I believe that representation apart from the school district is often necessary to ensure that teacher rights are upheld. Also, there are some parents that strangle teacher authority within our schools. Some parents have even initiated “rules” that allow the administration team to solely provide consequences for the student. This completely strips away authority from the teacher, and will prove to be detrimental for the student to develop appropriate respect for individuals in all positions, and not just authority figures. Professional organizations help to protect teachers from these types of situations.
Finally, I believe that my professional organization presents a united front, in which to advocate for students and teachers. Currently, Governor Fallin and State Superintendent Barresi wish to change education in a fearful way. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND reading this article . The two aforementioned “leaders” have entrusted major education decisions to a person that is responsible for schools that house six teachers per 350 educators! They would love to enact: “a “central office” that can effectively support 1,000 schools with a staff of less than 100.” The instruction for our students would largely be driven through computer presentation, and modules that “teach” our students. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that computers can build relationships! I don’t want to live in a world where my future children can’t run up and give their second grade teacher a hug! I want my future children and current students to learn how to be responsible citizens, a person with empathy, someone who stands up against injustice, and feels a responsibility to leave this world a better place than what they found it. I don’t think that these computers and six teachers will be able to create developmental learning and treat our students as individuals!
The other team that I belong to is, Team #oklaed. Although I have yet to meet one of these fellow teammates face-to-face, I have grown tremendously by reading their blogs. I would encourage all of my readers to check out the following blogs: A View From the Edge, okeducationtruths, Jason James, Keen Educator, Fourth Generation Teacher, Random Reflections From an Educator, and HaselwoodMath. (If I forgot anyone else, I’m sorry…it’s a Sunday night!) We may not agree on every single issue, but do believe in discussing and providing awareness to the issues that are affecting Oklahoma education. There are so many more individuals that don’t blog that belong to Team #oklaed. It is my hope that we can continue to witness this team grow!
Although I haven’t endorsed a candidate for the future State Superintendent race, I pseudo-witnessed a level of teamwork through Twitter yesterday involving Joy Hofmeister . She attended the #edcampokc with educators from all over the state. From what I read, it was a positive experience from everyone that attended! Like I said, I haven’t decided on a candidate, but this level of collaboration is a breath of fresh air. I have yet to hear of Janet Barresi attending an education event that has not been organized by the OSDE.
I’m not trying to say that education unions and “Team #oklaed” are the only groups that can/should advocate for Oklahoma education! Actually, I’m trying to convey the importance of unifying all groups for the interest of public education! Get involved with your surrounding Parent Legislative Action Committee (PLAC), contact your legislators, and rally with us! We are a team!
I believe that we should all collaborate to inform each other. Janet Barresi and others want to try and capitalize on the ignorance of the public. She is now “pushing” for a $2,000 raise to the state minimum salary schedule. Most school districts already offer above the state minimum salary, so I see this as nothing more than a political push. Ashley Gaona, states it perfectly HERE.
All education groups need to unite to protect the well being of our education system. Please join us at the rally and prove to the critics that we are not just “liberal union bosses”, but people from all groups united to create the best possible environment for our students and teachers.
Thanks to all of the union members, PLAC groups, parents, students, community members, Team #oklaed bloggers and non-bloggers, and teachers for continue to encourage me. I truly believe that together we will be a catalyst for positive change in Oklahoma education. We are all a part of Team #oklaed.