It has been a while since I have written and there are a number of reasons for that but none that need articulation. It feels awkward to be writing about these education issues after this week's horror story from Newtown. Teachers in that school have set a high bar for dedication and responsibility and we as teachers need to honor them and this profession. Thus, it is difficult to listen to the words of Bloomberg when, earlier last week, he urged that the DOE and the City and State put the "teacher's feet to the fire" in regards to the upcoming teacher evaluation formula.. What is this? Sign off on the evaluation or die? Is this how one in his position starts dealing with his constituents, with the members of an honest profession? He wouldn't say that to NYPD or FDNY. But now, after the horrors of Connecticut, maybe the public will not appear to be so supportive of the off-handed demonization and vilification of teachers.
Our issue here is that our union, the UFT, is not fulfilling its purpose. It has become sclerotic and intent on preserving its own limited power at the expense of true representation of the rank and file. Here we are as teachers; facing a new, questionable at best, evaluation system that will have far reaching effect on all teachers. And what do we get from our union? Did our union send e-mails out to it's members informing them of this impending process? NO! Are we asked by our chapter leaders to select representatives to have district meetings to examine and discuss this very important issue? NO. Are we given a detailed and critical examination of this evaluation process to discuss among members? NO! Why are we being kept in the dark? If it were not for the education bloggers, activists and organizations like MORE and ICE, the rank and file would have no idea of what is actually going on. Go ahead, ask a teacher in your school about the evaluation issue and the $ in Albany tied to it and you will get a shrug and "huh" at least 75% of the time.
One would think that a union and especially a teacher's union would be a progressive and transparent voice for the rank and file in education. You have an educated membership that is in fact paid to be a thinking person. Why would the union and by that I mean the Unity caucus make every effort to keep it membership in the dark about the truth behind the evaluation process. Why won't they allow the union membership to vote on such an important issue? I do not want nor do I trust the Delegate Assembly to voice my concern over this process of evaluation that has been discredited as "junk science".
The one good thing that has resulted of my being on the excessed list this past summer is that it made me take a look at my union. Once I saw how it failed in its charge of representing it's members (those who are still in the ATR/ACR), it has made me critical of the union mission and leadership. It is one step of many in self-education and I recommend it to anyone in the teaching profession. It is time to have one's voice heard; it is time to stand up for a change; it is a time a union leadership that has not empowered and insulated itself from the rank and file - I need and want a voice in a democratic union.