With the uprising in Wisconsin of teachers and other public employees, the conversations in my school have been interesting . . . oops; no they haven’t since they are not occurring! Sure we have had other topics to discuss: high school basketball play-offs, former student’s death, who is most popular among the freshmen, speculation over who or what will be cut due to budget reductions again, but no comments at all on Wisconsin.
The absence of discussion bothers me. True having a former student die is unnerving since we all form attachments to our students; 19-year old should not die before they find their way into the world or even through the world, parents should not have to bury their children. Without turning this into that discussion, yes, this was an important topic—we all need to grieve and celebrate the lives of those who have touched our hearts. But I want to focus on another aspect of the lack of discussion of Wisconsin’s teachers’ plight. I work in a “Right-to-Work” state; true in the metropolitan areas Unions do have a larger influence, in some of the industries such as vocational careers unions play a more important role than teachers’ unions do in my community.
In fact the teachers’ union exists in name only—when I first started teaching in this community, all the teachers’ union did was ask for a pay raise annually and provide a scholarship to graduating seniors. The dues were reasonable and the only benefit was liability insurance. Having worked in a school district where the union negotiated contracts, benefits and provided a variety of services to its members, I chose not to join and instead obtain my liability insurance through professional organizations related to my content areas. The benefits of participating in content area organizations were immediately realized! I have made connections with teachers of like content all over the USA and a few internationally. I have been supported pedagogically, professionally and personally by more than the 1-3 K-12 content area teachers within my district, I have made life long friends and I have learned to be a professional within the education field. I have personally attended workshops, conferences and meetings across the United States, participated in Webinars with like-minded professionals and gained not just my own educational benefits but benefits for my students, colleagues and school district. Are they daily and seasonal activities of my students important? You bet! But as a teacher I am more than just the person in the classroom for these students. I am a professional. I work for the betterment of my students, my colleagues, my school and my school district as well as myself. Teaching is my avocation and fortunately I do receive fiscal compensation so I can not only pay my shelter, food and other immediate living needs but supplement my students’ and colleagues learning as well. So it is with pride and concern that I watch Wisconsin, support her teachers and other public employees as they are part of my professional learning network.
As goes Wisconsin so goes so many other states and professions!