At 22 years old, right out of college, with several maxed-out credit cards, $50 to join the union seemed like too much to handle. Now, a dozen years later, I am the VP of my local association. I’m part of the negotiations team. I represent my local association at regional and state OEA events. I talk contractual rights with teachers most evenings and on weekends. What the heck happened to me? Electroshock treatment or a near-death experience? No, my involvement in my local has steadily increased over the past twelve years, and the more involved I have become, the more rewarding the experience has been.
Thirty two of my colleagues will box up their personal items this June. Even though Issue 2 was defeated, the toll it has taken on teachers is evident. We get into the profession because of the noble work we can do for children, not because we consider teaching a great way to earn a buck or two. Issue 2 caused people to change the way they think about teaching. It’s a job now, not the rewarding career they used to know. They will have some cake and a few laughs, as they reminisce about the things they experienced throughout their careers. They’ll make jokes about how they never have to attend another in-service or proctor another test. It will be a bittersweet farewell in so many instances, as I consider how much my colleagues, my students and I will lose, with the departure of these exceptional educators.
My efforts alone are not enough to help my students be successful—everyone must work together for this to occur. In fact, all of us—teachers, students, parents and our elected officials should be held accountable for our students’ success. I could be the greatest teacher in the world, but if a student in my class chooses not to take my class seriously, if their parent can’t guarantee that their child attends school regularly or if our elected officials don’t consider students’ needs when making education policy decisions, the impact I have on my students could be neutralized.