I no longer work at my school. Thoughts on Unions.

I have a lot of posts coming in the next couple weeks.  A review of my year, my student responses to my letter and some end of the year odds and ends.  This one is more general education thoughts and feelings.

I was at the end of the year party last night for the school that I have been pink slipped from.  It was really fun.  One of the many many reasons that I am sad (doesn’t seem like a strong enough word) to leave my school is that the people are so fabulous.  Not just a little fabulous but a lot.  While there was lots of crying and a fair amount of anger at being let go there was one common sentiment through out our crowd, “This isn’t fair.”

I’ve been thinking about the use of the word “fair.”  It seems as teachers when we talk about the “fairness factor”  it always always comes back to the union.  “The union protects bad teachers.”  “Tenure protects lazy teachers.”    “You do a good job so you should keep your job.”  “This wouldn’t fly in the business world.”  I have been carefully wording my response to these comments that are meant as support and here goes,

I love the union.  I love it because as Kate Nowak says, it protects me from sexism.  I love the union.  I love it because as Jason Buell says, it protects me from myself.  I love the union. I love it because as Frank Noschese says, it protects students.  Here’s what the union doesn’t do:  It doesn’t allow you to show up to work late.  It doesn’t allow you leave your students unattended with a movie showing for long periods of time.  It doesn’t allow you not update your grade book for months at a time.  The union does not protect these teachers.  The union does not allow you to disregard parent emails.  The union does not allow you to have a classroom so messy it may be a fire hazard.  The union does not allow you to grab a child. AT ALL. EVER.

“In the business world this would never fly.” That is my favorite quote people say because education is not run like the business world and I don’t believe it should be.  I do believe though that we should all be held accountable to our contracts.  If we were, the teachers I talked about above would be written up.  Not just once but several times.  AND THEN THEY WOULD BE FIRED or they would change.  Not one would be upset about me losing my job if all the teachers above me were quality.

I want to finish with these two thoughts:

1. If you are a principal you need to hold your staff accountable.  I don’t care if people like or dislike you it is your job to make sure your staff is up to par.  It is not okay to let something go just because you like that person or because that person is difficult.  You are doing a disservace to your school, your students, your staff and yourself.

2. Maybe former teachers shouldn’t be admin.  I don’t mean always and I don’t mean this as an attack on anyone.  I definitely appreciate the thought that a former teacher understands what the teachers are going through but it is definitely possible that being part of an administration takes a different skill set than teaching.




4 thoughts on “I no longer work at my school. Thoughts on Unions.

  1. Well said, Soph. Lately when I get into arguments with the ignorant, #2 after “WE DON’T GET PAID IN THE SUMMER” is “DOCUMENTING BAD TEACHERS AND HOLDING THEM ACCOUNTABLE IS NOT UP TO THE UNION” which doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker. Still working on sloganizing it. In other news, fingers crossed on the prospects. I’d make a special trip to oy-tray just to buy you a beer. Or soup. Whatevs.


  2. Well put, as usual, especially about the impact of timid and ineffective administrators on a school as a workplace.

    The thing I wanted to add my two cents about is this: Having spent a huge part of my life (25 years) in the corporate world — as an individual contributor, as a manager, as an executive, and as an entrepreneur — before returning to teaching, I want to say how much it makes me want throw up when I hear people argue that without the teachers union, “This kind of thing would never fly in the corporate world.”

    Oh really?

    The main reason Dilbert became an international sensation is that it reflects the unspoken (and often ugly) realities underlying life in the corporate world.

    The idea that incompetence gets a person fired? Oh, please. it often gets you promoted, especially when the boss is a pointy-haired idiot.

    The idea that productive workers always get recognized and financially rewarded? Give me a break. Too much recognition of one person often leads to back-stabbing by others and to charges of favoritism or discrimination.

    The idea that unproductive workers simply get fired? Spare me. Not when they’re performing horrible assignments that nobody with a working brain would want to do, they don’t.

    I could go on and on (and I often do), but I just wanted to poke a hole in that particular puff of hot air because the union is not the source of the problem.

    – Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)


  3. If you are a principal you need to hold your staff accountable. I don’t care if people like or dislike you it is your job to make sure your staff is up to par.

    Administrators are just like teachers, who are just like any other member of society. Accountability is a shared responsibility. In the best environments the entire staff (teachers, administrators, bakers and candlestick makers…) share a goal which is larger than themselves (or their contracts, parking spaces or name plates with the word “Principal”). There is no better feeling, in my mind, then to feel the pride of doing good, hard work that helps another. When you are able to share that feeling with your co-workers, it makes going to school alot of fun.


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