Saturday, September 08, 2018

Nope. They Begin With Great Teachers.

This is the CSA float from the Labor Day Parade. Here's a fact--the Labor Day Parade began with UFT. There is no doubt in my mind that we have more to do with great schools than administrators.

Don't get me wrong--there are great administrators. There are administrators for whom I have nothing but respect. This notwithstanding, I've seen quite a few who are cruel, who are small-minded, and who are extraordinarily vindictive. Sometimes their schools and departments are saved by teachers, parents, or students. Sometimes not.

Being an administrative leader is a huge job, and it's a job I would not want. Some administrators are good at some things, but not others. An administrator for whom I had great respect selected some of the best administrators I've ever seen. Alas, he also selected some of the worst. It's like there's no rhyme or reason. At least one of the terrible administrators he selected was reputed to be a good teacher. It's hard for me to imagine this person being a good teacher. To me, a good teacher has a quick mind, or is thoughtful, and this person most certainly was neither. I have students who'd think circles around this guy. (I love these students, but they are a lot of work.)

Teachers are busy around the clock. When I come in ridiculously early each morning, there are dozens of colleagues who've come in even more ridiculously early. I see social studies teachers huddled in a bookroom working on computers. All day long they're in that closet, prepping their classes. I don't think I spend as much time as they do, but I'm there early in the hopes I can get my work done before anyone finds me. I always find some way to finish, even if I can't explain just how.

And just for the record, we are brothers and sisters, we are union, and we also support one another. I get texts and emails all day long about more things than I can tell you. The first two days were real scorchers. The trailers were diabolical. I kept telling people to call the office and move the kids to the auditorium. No, I don't care if you're covering binomials. I don't even know what binomials are and it hasn't fundamentally affected my lifestyle.

Last week I helped a teacher in the trailer not only get a functional lock on the outside door, but also get a lock on the bathroom door so her students would no longer get locked inside. I helped five teachers file grievances. I helped a pregnant colleague get her entire program on one floor. I signed up every agency fee payer and every new teacher for our union.

I hear a lot about how the union sucks. The union makes bad endorsements. True.  The 2005 contract was an irredeemable piece of crap that we still pay for every single day. Also true. Nonetheless, the same union just negotiated six weeks of paid parental leave. Could it have been better? Of course. Is it a great step forward? Absolutely.

There are things we can do to make our union better. I know because I'm doing them. I became chapter leader of my school.  I ran for several union positions, and finally won one. I worked very hard to make that happen, and it was pretty much miraculous. This is what happens when we work together.

There are a lot of things going on in the UFT, all the time. You don't see them every day, but I do. During the Labor Day Parade, while I was marching, I was texting a union leader about an issue a member was having. This leader reached out to that member right at that moment. Here's the thing--we are the UFT. We are as active, or not, as we choose to be.

We need to take care of one another. We aren't going to win every battle. We aren't going to get rid of every crazy supervisor, because believe me, if they managed to find jobs in my school, they are an epidemic. But if we are not afraid, we can fight. If we are not afraid, we can win. We are role models. We owe it to our students to do what's right. We owe it to our students to make our jobs better. We owe it to our students to leave this job one they can aspire to.

Two of my former ELLs are now teachers in my building. I'm very proud of them. It's on us to improve our working conditions, and I'm reminded of this every time I look at these young women. It's on us to stand strong. It's on us to make change and to avoid letting grass grow beneath our feet. It's on us to create a better environment for our students and children. It's on us to make this job better for those who follow us.

I'll say just one more thing--CSA may think they're the leaders, but whither we go, they go too. Maybe more CSA members should support and help us. We will fight the bastards who gave us Janus, and we will win. If we didn't, CSA would most certainly be washed into the ocean right along with us, and when we faced draconian salary cuts and health fees, like they did in who knows how many union-hostile red states, they'd face them right along with us.

We lead. Where we lead to is up to us.
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