Below is the campaign statement I submitted for the BWEA Election, which takes place this Friday. I’m running for VP of the local, and here’s why.
I have served as a French and Spanish teacher at Mt. Hope since 2001. I remember a time when teaching, though not easy, was at least more rewarding. That started to change around 2008 or 2009. I started to feel more pressure to do more, that I was doing worse as a teacher, that I fell into the category of “bad teacher”. Then I became aware that everyone was feeling this. There was fear and demoralization, there was shame and isolation, and teachers even experienced heightened illness as a result of the change. Just two weeks ago, walking into school, a colleague for whom I have always had tremendous respect—this woman is an excellent teacher—confided to me that she felt she was a horrible teacher. I was stunned, but also saddened. This is not our fault.
The big picture is that public education, and teachers especially, have been under a broad social assault for the last seven years. But this situation cannot last forever. I believe that some cracks have opened up, opportunities for us to assert our real value as professionals, and also for us to push back in some areas where we’ve had to give up what we used to have. The growing opposition to things like the new teacher evaluation system, testing requirements for high school graduation, and the PARCC test itself show that there is a mood for change. We need to put forward the idea that good public education is based on trusting teachers. We know what’s good for children and for education, and we have our students’ best interests at heart.
My union experience includes six years as a building representative, and three years as the high school grievance chair. While I cannot say that I’ve filed a tremendous number of grievances, I have sat with numerous colleagues as they’ve gone through challenges involving administration, and I have a firm sense of how we can and should assert our rights and our dignity. I served on the large committee of the negotiations committee in each of the last three contracts, and I have been tracking the areas of the contract we should focus on and try to push forward.
I also have two children at Hugh Cole School, where I’ve gotten to know some excellent colleagues from a different angle. It’s often difficult to understand each others’ issues, even in the same union, because our work lives are structured so differently. But through my kids, I’ve started to gain some insight into what goes on at the elementary level, and I’ve done so as well from the parent perspective. I hope to use this new insight to help us build bridges and make allies in the community.
As vice president of the BWEA, I would work toward four objectives:
1) Dignity and respect for us as teachers and for our profession. Over the last seven years, the teaching profession and public education in general have been under a fierce attack at all levels of society. We need to reclaim our dignity, and to be treated with respect by students, parents, the general public, and most of all, our administrators at all levels.
2) Self-determination for teachers. What we teach, how we assess students, how we run our classrooms, how we spend our time as teachers—in all of these areas, we need much more control, both collectively and individually, over our profession, our curricula and instruction, and our working conditions.
3) Opposition to bureaucratic and corporate impositions on public education. We need to push back against all the little cracks where private corporations, and corporate-backed bureaucrats like Deb Gist and Arne Duncan, have imposed their agenda. For example, when parents and educators question the validity of the PARCC test and assert the right of children not to be subjected to it, we need to collectively stand for their rights and against the financial power of Pearson and other such corporate interests.
4) Collective connection as teachers with parents. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. We have common interests with parents when it comes to our working conditions, particularly questions like class size. Many of us are parents ourselves, as well—and a solid connection between our union and the parents we serve can only strengthen all of us.