Thursday, February 5, 2009

the spy who loves you

Tonight I went to a meeting with my best friend Jen who works at our kids' school as a Special Education aide. We presumed the meeting was a general 'heads-up' gathering to discuss potential budget cuts in the district. We presumed incorrectly; it was actually a classified employees' union cross-burning rally. A rally that degenerated frightfully into a teacher-bashing rant, because We think We're more important than classified staff because We have our "college educations" (their leader made air quotes when she said that - does that mean she thinks my degree is a sham? Not necessary? I was confused). I honestly started to feel like if I were identified as a teacher (and I saw a number of staff assistants & librarians there who know me; I sat very still and tried to actually become invisible), there would be gasps & shrieks & possibly a stoning.

I get very nervous when a union starts talking fast & loud. Essentially, I think the union is a positive organization for making sure people are treated fairly in their work situations; unfortunately it can easily become a hostile Us vs. Them exercise. When it comes to educational situations, my greatest concern is for the kids being served - obviously I enjoy a paycheck, and of course I realize some people rely on their paychecks to survive, but threatening to walk out of a job at the expense of children makes no sense to me. So I get wiggly & nervous about that stance, and the classified workers at tonight's meeting mentioned the possibility of striking if their positions are scheduled to be cut.

Again, I completely understand being upset about losing a job (hello!), but then their leader promised to inform the district that the classified employees "are the most important people in the district." That if they were not in the schools, children would not be getting a quality education. My heart was racing, I started sweating - partly because of the aforementioned stoning possibility, but mostly because I hate this game; it takes a village, people. Let's not argue about who is more or less necessary in our kids' lives - let's just do our best work during our time with them and discuss fair salaries at the end of the day.

I did reveal my secret identity to a few people as the meeting ended and was secretly bemused when their eyes widened and they flushed slightly. It tells me they don't really think we teachers are power hungry elitist monsters, and that's a relief. I don't like fighting.


Melanie Sheridan said...

You nailed it. It totally takes a village and that village is shrinking because of budget cuts. Teachers rock.

lisahgolden said...

Oh, this kind of thing is maddening and how awful that any group feels pitted against another when you all share the same goal.

My husband's employer school district is also seeing budget cuts and it leads to discussions of who is considered "essential" and "non-essential" staff. The only result from that kind of discussion is pain because most people who work in schools do fundamentally care about the students. To tell them in some way that their contribution can fall away without impact, is really discouraging to the mission to educate children.

I long for the day when this nation values education enough to truly fund it instead of just giving lip service to it.

In the meantime, I hope things will smooth out where you are and everyone can get back to the purpose without worrying about who is more or most essential.

Very Mary said...

I was getting all nervous with sweaty palms just reading this.

LarryG said...

oh sure you tow the line now!
just wait till you're back in the classroom mindcontrolling those poor kids, why they'll have to run to someone in services to help the booboo you created! :)

This is why i deplore politics, but they are inherent to human nature.

have a lovely weekend!
so this week the kids were good, the adults were bad... it happens.

katydidnot said...

um. sounds like a smoky room behind the bar mob boss meeting. eep.

Fantastic Forrest said...

H.o.l.y C.r.a.p!

It's only going to get worse, sadly.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

For one brief moment, I suffered BF guilt, that I should have been there with you both...

I would take a stone or two for you, just so you know.

But school strikes give me flashbacks and hives because our school's union strikes and board meetings ended in mania.

Barbed wire was draped around the school.

Gradebooks, with my hard earned As, were hidden from the 'scabs', as the Us vs. Them began to feel like an attack on students.

I am SO sad to see this come to our neck of the woods. It brings out the ugly.

scargosun said...

Ick! I hate stuff like this. The ripping apart of educators that should be bound together not only for the good of the kids but for the good of each other is maddening.

shrink on the couch said...

I bet that was very uncomfortable, from many aspects. I'd have been afraid of being hung as a spy!

I have a friend who is a union organizer. In some of our conversations, it often felt like union arguements lost sight of the forest for the trees .. or vice versa. Good intentions gone too far, or gone off course.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I am with you--I support what unions are supposed to do, but frequently abhor what they actually do.

I wish teachers' unions would come up with a good way to get rid of bad teachers. If that happened, the public perceptions of teachers' unions would change drastically and some truly terrible teachers (everyone knows who they are) might actually be removed from the classroom.

Anonymous said...

I takes a village...but it shouldn't. Because the state won't hire enough teachers and because the shortage overcrowds classrooms and because "inclusion" puts Special Ed/Emotionally Disturbed kids in a regular classroom with (WITH NO AIDE TO ASSIST THEM), we're forced to rely on the village. The village is not more important than the teachers. They are there to fill the holes caused by a selfish system that does not support the teachers--and in turn---the students. That kind of meeting makes me sweat, too.


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