Friday, September 07, 2007

A Baltimore Teacher on the Work to Rule Effort

A few weeks ago, I posted a comment about an effort by the Baltimore Teachers Union to encourage teachers to "work to rule" meaning do nothing not explicitly stated in the contract. A Baltmore teacher who blogs, Ephiphany in Baltimore submitted a comment and also had this post in which he writes about the ludicrousness of the Union's position:
"Working to rule," is, as the letter explained, not completing any tasks not explicitly stated on the contract. No hall duty, no lunch duty, no staying past 3:25 and no arriving before 8:05. No advising any organizations. No writing any letters of recommendation. No grading or planning anything outside of the prescribed time. No buying any school supplies. No grading any work at home.

It's all pretty laughable. The awful feeling of being in front of a classroom without a proper plan is enough to dissuade me from ever engaging in something like this, and this is just the selfish side of me. You just can't negotiate with the kids as a bargaining tool.
While I sympathize with Ephiphany, I find that in some districts, where the relationship between union and administration is adversarialy at best, the use of kids as a bargaining chip is rarely effective.

Yet, that is what unions do reguarly, not just in Baltimore. Over and over, we have heard from unions, both local and national, that they just want "to help the kids or serve the kids." But as I have stated, time and time again, that is simply not possible. The union can serve its members or serve the kids, but not both.

But Epiphany's comments about my views not withstanding (and they are critical and to an extent fair), this passage made me wonder once again about the disconnect between frontline teacher and contract negotiator.
It's apparently all over planning time. According to our Union head, we already get less planning time than any other district in the state. I don't know if that's true, but I definitely know that I don't want the BCPSS filling up more of our time with pointless professional development when I could be working for my kids. Still, it's hard for me not to wish that the union was doing something a little more useful. Can we get a cap on our student loads or class sizes, for example (say, 140 and 28?)? Or how about be guaranteed textbooks for every student? Or how about, I dunno, a phone in my freaking classroom? I don't ask for much.
I can attest that in Frederick County at least, there are lots and lots of planning days built into the calendar.

But planning time seems to take a back seat for front line teachers to such pedestrian issues as class size or books. But these working conditions are routinely ignored by union negotiators, which makes me wonder, who is driving the union bus--teachers themselves or union staff?

1 comment:

Grant said...

The Union cares very little about the children, or about fixing the system in any tangible ways. The Union endorsed Sheila Dixon for mayor. What a group of absolute hypocrite, sell-outs.