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All Should Be Ashamed

As much as I jokingly complain about my job, I really do enjoy it. When it all boils down, I get paid to play games all day, and I get all kinds of vacations, as well as a whole summer off every year. It’s a dream world. When I was a young teacher, I was quite defensive about people saying teachers have it easy. I think anyone who knows what really goes on in a school on a day to day basis would tell you it isn’t easy. But I chose it. I understand the difficulties I face working with students and administrators. I signed up for it and I now understand it. I now actually like when people say I have it easy. I just agree with them and tell them they could have easily made the same choice I did. That’s on them. 

Nowadays, there’s only one thing that really bothers me about my profession. 

Every so often, there’s some kind of high profile teacher strike in a local town. There’s actually been two this year in Massachusetts. Both Andover Public Schools and Newton Public Schools have experienced a teacher strike. This is what really bothers me. 

When the teachers union and school committees battle it out over pay scales, days off and minutes of prep time they get, it reflects poorly on those of us who go to work and do our jobs every day to the best of our abilities.

Listen, as a teacher, I am typically not a fan of administration. I’ve been screwed a few times for simply doing my job. It sucked and I felt powerless. I had to just sit there and take the short end of the stick continually shoved where the sun doesn’t shine. I get the instinct to tell the admin to pound sand and not come to work until I get what I deserve. 

During all this, I was a member of a union. Guess what they did for me? They took my dues from my miniscule salary and provided me with lip service. They were useless because I didn’t really matter in their eyes. I was just a lowly aid at the time, and I was replaceable. They’d rather argue tooth and nail about who gets their prep time extended from 50 minutes to 52 minutes. Meanwhile, my salary was yanked from under me with a few days notice, and I just had to live with it. It finally took me moving to a private school and betting on my teaching abilities to finally get where I wanted to be. 

Hey, it isn’t just the teachers union that does things like this. Administrations have been known to use the same backhanded tactics. If you look at the salaries some teachers are getting for working with some of the most difficult students, you’d be sickened. Then you throw in the state forcing schools to do some ridiculous things, like taking tests that are designed for kids to fail and then punishing those schools that struggle by pulling funding. 

The amount of garbage that goes on in schools is appalling. And you know who pays the price? That’s right, the people that all parties involved claim to be looking out for. The students. 

We saw it after the Covid crap shut down schools for the better part of two years, kids are hurt when they’re not at school. Sometimes, even just a week of time off can have long lasting impacts on students' learning and social development. I know when I was working in special education, even the regularly scheduled vacations meant we had to go back to where we were when school started for some kids. An unscheduled school closure due to a strike has the potential to do irreversible damage to some students. 

Both administrators and teachers know this. And yet, they allow it to happen anyway. You know what that means? Despite what they say, none of them truly care for the kids. Now, I’m not saying all of the individuals feel this way. Quite the opposite actually. I guarantee that the vast majority of teachers would have rather been at work. Some probably even hated going on strike. But they’re in an unwinnable situation. If they went to work against the unions wishes, they’d be vilified by those in power and I’m sure wouldn’t last long in that district. And any teacher will tell you, word travels fast. It’d be hard to find a job after doing something like that. 

School committees know this as well. They tell teachers that they can’t do anything about it and hold the kids' education in front of the teachers and try to guilt trip them into agreeing to unfair contracts. It all just turns into a giant pissing match and the kids are standing in the middle just getting the worst part of it all. 

And you know what is really gross? Schools are closed for 3 months of every year. Why are both parties waiting to have these negotiations until school is in session? You know what would fix all this? A simple law. All teacher contracts should expire at the end of a school year. If there is some kind of debate or negotiations that need to take place, they happen during the summer. Then, school cannot begin until an agreement is reached. That way, there is no interruption of a school year. If it has to start late? So be it. They’ll get their 180 days in school whether it starts in late August or early October. 

But, as cynical as it sounds, this will never happen. It just makes too much sense. Both the teachers union and the school committees want the leverage point of depriving the kids an education to sway the public in their favor. For the public to get this kind of change, I urge people to stay away from the bombastic TV press conferences like those in Newton the past few weeks. I suggest you find a teacher who isn’t a militant union member and ask them about it. I guarantee they’ll agree with the union in a public setting, but in private they’ll just want to go to work and help the kids. 

All of those in power that force these decisions upon the kids should be ashamed of themselves and the public should take their wrath out on them. 

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