Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The One Where I Ramble About Being Passionate and Settling my Work Contract

A hundred meaningless thoughts and less than a hundred seconds to get them into some sort of meaningful format so I can sort through them accordingly.


Ready.
Set.
Go.


My union settled our contract recently.  This has been a huge source of relief in the last eight-months-from-hell.  I know people in general have a lot of opinions about unions and contract negotiations.  You're welcome to your opinion.  Frankly, I struggled a bit with my opinion on this particular contract.


Actually, that's in large part what made this contract a fresh slice of hell in the workplace:  there were a lot of opinions, there wasn't a lot of communication and several "personal" issues (among board members and faculty members alike) became the roadblocks to a settlement.  Before we finally reached the point of exhaustion, the IEA sent representatives in to ask if we were willing to strike over the issues at hand.


Strike.  The word still makes me a little sick to my stomach.  Was that something I wanted?  Absolutely not.  I don't think any party benefits from a strike, but when there is no recourse because each side has drawn a proverbial line in the sand...then what?  That's the question I kept asking myself.


The community at large believed all members of the union were stalled over a raise and insurance benefits.  (In fact, one school board member's wife took to a public forum to make her opinions regarding our "posh" contract known.)  And that's fine.  You are welcome to believe what you wish to believe about teachers and negotiations in general.  In my own mind, though, I was struggling with what feels like the constant deprofessionalization of education. 


Frankly, public education is suffering under the weight of constant reform--reform that rarely has enough years in practice to see any real change or progress.  So when it comes to drawing and keeping quality educators?  I get a little passionate.


It's not about summers off.  It's not about working 7.5 hours a day and throwing in the towel.  It's not about babysitting or entertaining.  For me, this isn't a career or a place to bide my time at all.  It's a calling.


This week alone I've been reminded how important it is to hire people who are passionate about what they do because teenagers?  Are often unlovable.  In fact, about 40% of them spend 100% of their time acting like complete douche-canoes while maintaining a desperate need for someone to care for each of them consistently.


And consistency is hard--especially when these teenagers often lash out with personal insults.  This job clearly isn't for people who are holding on for summers off.  The other nine months make that abundantly clear.


So was I willing to strike for the sake of drawing and maintaining coworkers who are going to stand in the trenches with me and holler about what needs more attention, what shouldn't be ignored and push for the things that have taken a backseat to standardized tests?  You bet your ass I am.  Too many of my students come from homes best described as VOID.  Not fighting for those students feels like a betrayal.  Fighting for more money on my paycheck (while nice) when they potentially suffer at the hands of what is left for public education feels like a betrayal.


And I wish I felt as confident about my decision (which ended up not mattering since we settled) as I sound here.


Why don't I?  Because THE FEAR.  Oh gracious heavens, the fear.


But that's another post for another day.