Saturday, June 5, 2010

Union Leadership for Dummies

If someone were to ask me for a job description for a teacher, the answer would be obvious. "A teacher's job," I'd say, "is to educate students to the best of his or her ability." I would never answer that my job was to make the principal happy, or to make the mayor look good. Of course, if teachers work to the best of their ability, principals should be happy and the mayor will look good as a byproduct of that work.

Yet when Michael Mulgrew discussed his job for City Hall News, he said the following:

“My job is to represent the people of the union and all of the people in our communities to make sure they have good lives,” he said. (emphasis mine)

This is the same kind of crap we used to hear from Randi Weingarten. Listening to her rhetoric, you'd have to conclude that she collected dues from NYC public school children and their parents. It's disheartening to hear Mulgrew toe the same line.

Mulgrew, if you or your cronies are reading this, take note. Your job is to represent and act in the best interests of the dues paying members of the UFT. You are not here to represent all the people in all the communities of NYC and to try to make their lives better; your job is to make the lives of the people you represent better. PERIOD.

In my view, acting in the best interests of UFT members does directly benefit children in almost every case. The UFT has put a cap on class size that would have been obliterated long ago if the city had its way. Getting higher wages and better benefits for members helps attract and retain the best teachers for our kids. Protecting seniority, LIFO, and tenure keeps the profession stable and makes the teaching more attractive for future generations of teachers. In fact, I can hardly think of a way in which acting in the interests of teachers hurts students.

The general public, however, thinks that a four percent increase for teachers is an outrage, despite the pattern bargaining the city has insisted on for decades. They think teachers are being unreasonable in trying to retain tenure. They think we should give up seniority. And when Mulgrew makes moronic comments like the above, the people of this city expect him to act on their behalf rather than on the behalf of UFT members.

Let me write a new job description for you, Mr. Mulgrew, so that next time you're asked what your job is, you'll know what to say. "My job is to represent all the members of my union to the best of my ability."

The teacher in me wants to make him write it 1000 times on the chalkboard until he gets it.


Miss Eyre said...

Here's more: preserving reasonable daily schedules for teachers (e.g. not taking away preps all the time) gives teachers more time to plan and provide helpful, thoughtful feedback for kids. Not making teachers do lunch duty means that teachers can free up their lunch periods for tutoring or, God forbid, have some quiet personal time so they can recharge a bit before the next class. A school day that begins and ends at reasonable hours leaves teachers more time to grade, plan, and advise extracurricular activities.

Basically, anything that uses teachers as babysitters ends up being bad for kids.

ed notes online said...

Funny Shanker said what you want Mulgrew to say and of course he was vilified for it. But then he got into that PR thing and started joining in the business chorus of ed deform. A careful study shows that the vilification affected the policies of the union and set us off down this path since the early 80's. And maybe even before - Shanker saved the city in '75 supposedly at our expense. Then over the years kept giving and giving. So I would not put the blame on Randi and Mulgrew only.

While I agree with the general thread here I also think we have to consider enlisting in fight for kids who have no one to fight for them. This is a tricky slope but I mean for medical and social service benefits and psychological help - our working conditions are also affected by how kids come to school.
I feel the union gave up the battle for the kind of funding for the services kids need in the early 70's and 10 years later joined in the "schools don't necessarily need more money to fix major problems, just better trained teachers and a better curriculum" as they paid lip service to class size reductions. When we brought it up at the DA they said it had to come out of salary and we said this is the issue that will get everyone outside the union fighting for a contract that addresses the class size issue.

NYC Educator said...

I've read that Shanker's quote was actually something he never said. I can't remember where, though. It's a good quote, and I'd like him better if he actually said it.

Pogue said...

Wow, Mulgrew's "all-pleasing" comment borders on a Miss America Pageant-type answer.

It's seems so simple...

Good, experienced, former-teacher principals should manage the teachers in a fair and productive way. Check.

Good, experienced, career-choosing teachers, to the best of their ability, are to help the students. Check.

The union's job should be to represent, support, and fight for any injustices against those teachers. Check.

Take care of the teachers and teachers will take care of the students.

Why this isn't expressed and fought for, by our union, on a daily basis, is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

91% voted for Mr. Mulgrew. Are they sorry now as the givebacks just add on and on and on.