My teachers’ union makes me a better teacher
It’s a hotly debated issue: Are teachers’ unions forces for good or evil?
As an educator, I cannot convey just how critical my union membership is to my job security and satisfaction. No matter what some outside of education say, union representation allows me to focus on student learning and grow professionally. If you can try to put aside your prior experiences and thoughts on teachers’ unions for one moment, I want to tell you how the union has made me a better teacher.My mother was a Michigan Education Association member until the day she retired. She taught me that union representation is much like health insurance—though most of the time you don’t need it, you should always have it in case of emergencies.
I never knew what that meant until I became a teacher. In the past several years, my union has supported me in ways that school districts have never been able to. Union membership has become less like health insurance, and more like my lifeblood—sustaining my development as a practitioner and helping me grow professionally.
It was the union that provided me the necessary support to obtain my National Board Certification. Achieving this certification made me a more reflective practitioner. My student test scores increased and I became an accomplished teacher at my school. The union also trained me to become a graduate level instructor. I created my own graduate-level course on integrating technology in the classroom, one of the few technology-based professional development offering in my district.
The union has helped pay for my travel to valuable education conferences and convenings—though standard fare in most jobs, most teachers rarely have the opportunity to leave their classrooms to share innovative ideas and learn from practitioners across the country. I have been able to attend the National Board’s Teaching and Learning Conference every year since working in Washington, D.C. The union also gave me the opportunity to speak at the EdSurge Conference for administrators on technology. What’s more, since becoming a Washington Teacher’s Union member, I have had the opportunity to network with thousands of teachers from across the nation.
And then there are the critical job protections. Recently, my administration asked me to consistently perform extra monitoring duty on bad weather days. When I asked my administration about how I would get my full lunch, I was told, “Well, we’ll only need to cut into your lunch for a half a year.” No teacher should be told that their valuable lunch time is going to be unilaterally removed for any reason. In my case, no one in my administration sought any compromise. I immediately went to my union representative and threatened to file a grievance for having to miss my lunch time. Lo and behold, administration was willing to compromise once I brought the union into the conversation.
Unions have also helped bring teachers, policymakers, and the public together to call for higher teacher salaries. When I taught in New Mexico—where a teacher’s average salary is roughly $10,000 less than the national average of $56,000—I had to work two or three part time jobs to afford to teach. A recent report from the Education Policy Institute highlights to detriments of the widening gap between teacher salaries and salaries of other college educated professionals, including higher teacher attrition rates and lower numbers of talented candidates entering the My teachers’ union makes me a better teacher | TheHill: