Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Fear Itself

If you're a chapter leader, you know what the most common complaint is. "I have this problem, it's the worst problem on earth, but I don't want to file a grievance. When you complain about it, make sure my name doesn't come up." I understand nervousness. I understand aversion to risk. Sometimes I can figure out how to get around things, but not all the time.

It takes a lot to make people stand up at the workplace. Sometimes people have nothing to lose, so they decide what the hell, I'm ready. That's what happened in a few red states, where people really had nothing to lose. Once you decide things can't get any worse, all you can do is make them better.

Other times it's very tough. I'm on a teacher board on Facebook, and a lot of people, even on that board, say, "Please post this anonymously." Mostly I don't blame them. When you're out there on the internet, it's like open season. People can say anything, and often do. There are a whole lot of people you can't reason with, and trying to do so is an absolute waste of time.

On the other hand, if you've got work issues, and if they are real issues, you have to at least try to improve them. Many, probably most, supervisors are reasonable. There are a lot of them you can take chances with. Of course that's not always the case. And if you have a crazy supervisor, argument isn't going to accomplish anything.

Union is a bulwark against a lot of nonsense. There are rules. Of course the DOE has an army of bad lawyers who push back against them. They can wear you down. I have grievances that have sat for years waiting for arbitrators, and even some waiting to be heard at step two. Step two is where your complaint against the principal goes to the still-Bloomberg DOE, which rules against you always always.

Patience is not my best virtue. I hate waiting on things when I know I'm right. However, I'd hate it even more if I were to let things go. As long as I'm stuck in this system I'll use it. If you don't enforce your rights, you really haven't got any. Being afraid doesn't help you. I'm thinking of someone who's been repeatedly abused by a supervisor, but refused to take action. That emboldens the supervisor in question, who lashes out and does more outrageous things. Not fighting back, in fact, doesn't help.

It's tough to make people understand that. In fact I know people who've been put up on 3020a charges for nonsensical reasons. Fortunately, they survived this nonsense. They've been dragged through the mud, though, while fighting it. People like Joel Klein, Campbell Brown, and who knows how many readers of flawed op-eds have no problem making judgments, whether they know the cases or not.

You know what made me afraid? I had cancer about eleven years ago. That was scary. After that, I didn't worry so much about whether or not I got a letter in my file. I stopped caring whether or not people knew who wrote this blog. It seemed everyone who knew me knew about it anyway.

I don't know exactly what we have to do to overcome fear in our numbers. It doesn't really help us. It isn't what I want to see in our children or students. It's probably not what you want either. I wouldn't wish cancer on my worst enemy. I don't want my colleagues up against some wall, feeling they have nothing to lose before speaking up, let alone rising up.

All I can tell you is if you lose your fear, you'll feel better every day.
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