This isn’t going to be popular among teachers, but all of us have been here.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this: teacher unions suck. The tenure sucks, and as soon as teachers get tenure, many teachers suck too. Sure, every teacher wants to become tenured because as soon as they are, they can confidently say, “I can do whatever I want.” Because of this, 3 year teachers are sometimes just as bad as 30 year teachers. It’s so sad that young teachers with passion to learn and teach walk into any school be told by any staff member which teachers “should have retired years ago.” These teachers sometimes even admit that they don’t want to teach but only stay because of the consistent income and job security.
The good thing about the massive, powerful teachers unions is this and only this: California teachers’ salaries are one of the best in the nation. In my first few years of teaching I get paid almost double that of my South Carolina counterparts. It’s truly sad how underpaid teachers are around the country. However, overall California teachers have nothing to complain about (I said overall, there are exceptions). Now many teachers would take this opportunity to complain about how large their workload is, how large their classes are, and how underfunded their schools are to supply their students with education that is intended to change the direction our country is going, but I’m not going to address that right now. California teachers get paid pretty well, especially when comparing them to most of the rest of the country.
The only reason we get paid well is because of the unions. And other than that, what do unions do exactly? Just exactly what you think they do. They sit around and complain one hour per month about petty intricacies in the contract, about conservative politicians, and about how often their principal walks into their classroom. People with normal jobs couldn’t complain about how often their bosses check up on them. Bosses are supposed to ensure that their employees are following protocol and are good employees that they want to keep. But teachers say that they are being harassed and abused.
Teachers might say something along the lines of, “Hey Lady, just because you are not tenured, then maybe you are the problem. You are just complaining that we are complaining, Hypocrite.” Yes, I’ve been passed up for tenure. Yes, I am not the best teacher on campus. Yes, I am complaining about the system that I have chosen to be a part of. But no, I am not being compared on a level playing field. School administration realizes that if they hire me (or any other teacher), they will never be able to get rid of me. They realize that there is a current threat that they will lose funding and if they do they will have more teachers than they can pay. They realize that a school-choice rule will follow with a mass exodus of students leaving public schools and, as a result, have more teachers that can’t be fired with too few students to teach. I am being rotated in a two year cycle. Many young teachers are being let go regardless of their abilities while schools are preparing for another round of possible funding cuts. Many businesses do this if they have possible funding cuts but to be let go not because of my job performance but because they can’t get rid of the teachers who everyone knows shouldn’t be teaching is wrong. Teachers, along with every other job in civilized society, should be continually learning and continually showing that they are teachable and valuable to the schools.
I want to be evaluated on a level playing field. If I’m not good enough to be a teacher in a district I want to know that it really is me, it really is my inability to teach, that there truly are teachers with more experience and expertise that should be there and are kicking ass at teaching. I want to be able to go to the teachers who do have 3-30 years of experience and know with confidence that I have something to learn from them. And not be resentful that they are only there because they are tenured and can’t be fired.
QUESTIONS FOR TEACHERS
- Do you know teachers who shouldn’t be teachers or “should have retired years ago?” How should schools handle those teachers? Should they just tolerate them until they decide to retire or should there be a alternative in place?
- What would you say to a young teacher like me and many others who feel this way?
- Don’t get me wrong, I know the benefits that unions have had for teachers in the past, but are they still effective? Also, does the power that teachers unions have in California ever bother you? Why or why not?
- Do you have your children in the public schools that you teach, why or why not?