Before I entered education 11 years ago I never thought I’d be in a union. I believed unions were only necessary in the movies or years ago when bosses wanted workers to work in factories for 12 hours a day for pennies on the hour. So when I signed my teacher paperwork I was hesitant to sign up for the union, Memphis Educators Association. The fee was $28 per pay period, but just when I was about to mark “no” a voice inside me told me to give it a try and if necessary, I could always cancel it.
As I started in my first school I was sure that I would see my union participating in protests, plotting against our principal and occasionally partaking in other ‘political’ agendas. I was wrong. Our union representative was a teacher who did much more then I ever thought a union rep would have to do. She counseled teachers, encouraged collaboration and even worked hand in hand with our school administrators. While my experience with a union has been nothing but positive, however when I relocated to a “right to work” state I now understand how misunderstood teacher unions are to the general public.
1. Unions protect bad teachers. This is the number one complaint I hear from union busters. In reality, unions don’t protect bad teachers, incompetent administrators who do by not properly documenting the teacher’s ineffectiveness are the real culprits. Instead I witnessed my union representative attempting to help weaker teachers perfect their crafts. The union offered classes at their headquarters to help teachers become better at their craft. Many teachers got better in the classroom, while the ones who struggled stayed in the classroom because administrators did not complete the required paperwork to remove those teachers.
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