On November 14, I and a couple thousand of my closest friend (i.e. fellow union members) protested at the School Board meeting, because they are choosing to not honor the pay scale they agreed to in 2013. This means hundreds of people ready to move to the next level of the pay scale are left hanging.
Well, those folks are still hanging. And me a few hundred of my closest friends got together again yesterday to continue the protest. This protest followed a week of working the contract. This means that teachers across the district just worked their 8 hour day. They didn’t take grading home. They canceled club meetings that they don’t get paid for. They did not work during their lunches. They walked into school at their contractual start time, and they left at their contractual end time. They did their lesson planning during their planning period and didn’t take that home either. (These are all things most of the teachers I know do on a regular basis.)
Perhaps to the casual reader it sounds like teachers were being lazy that week. Instead, it was meant to show how much time we give to the school district. We gift so much of our time. I didn’t really realize how much time I gifted to my employer until Work the Contract week.
A gift is supposed to be a nice thing. It’s something you do because you want to, and something that doesn’t require a return. But if you give, and give, and give with no reciprocation it begins to be draining. If I described a relationship where one person did all of the giving, I’d be describing a pretty unhealthy relationship.
I’m not so sure it’s different with your employer.
Certainly, right now, I feel drained. I’m physically tired. I’ve had the lingerings of a cold for a couple of weeks. Work the Contract made me realize there are not enough hours in my work day to fully prepare for three different science classes, two of which should be heavy with labs. And yet if I take the work home with me I end up doubly exhausted and unable to take care of the emotional needs of my students when I’m in their presence.
There are trade-offs with everything, and teaching involves more than just the lesson.
I’m glad for the protests. They help to build me up. At the protests there are hundreds to thousands of others confirming that my struggles and complaints are real and valid. There are so many people working and standing up for what they know is right, not just complaining about the injustice. People get up in front of the School Board and call out those elected officials, a rather intimidating thing to do. People have funny signs, which is a perk. The protests have been pulling my colleagues at my school site together, some of which I had barely ever seen before all of this started because we have no time to walk across campus and talk to each other.
One School Board member either referred to the feedback from employee speakers as being “foolishness” or referred to the “foolishness” of the protests going on outside the building that she could hear inside (not sure which she meant). If asking people to honor their word and standing up for what is right is “foolishness,” I will continue to be a fool. And I will continue recruiting fools until we hopefully have 10,000 fools rallying outside of that School Board meeting. Maybe they’ll listen then.
Maybe they’ll finally honor their word and the contract they agreed to four short years ago…