Blinking Red Light – Why Teachers Have Unions!

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The light is blink on the phone as you enter your classroom at 7 AM to start the day. Who called? What did I miss in my e-mail/newsletter/web-page update/remind announcement? A familiar voice comes on the speaker, it is your principal, “I need to see you when you get in!” What is so urgent? What did I do?  Worry enters the mind, all kinds of emotions take over as tears start to form at the corner of your eyes. Why am I being called to the principals office?

This scenario doesn’t happen very often, when it does teachers are thankful for being union members. The message creates panic; students goto the office not teachers. Usually if a Principal needs to talk to a teacher they stop by their room to converse casually in the hallway. What causes an unscheduled teacher office visit? It can be a number of things: Phone call from parents, concern shared by co-worker or student, observation by principal. Teachers fear the worst. They need someone to sit by their side. Help them gather their emotions and discuss the situation. Good administrators will give the union representative a heads up. The teacher is offered the opportunity to have the representative in the meeting. No harm in having an extra pair of ears attend to listen and give them an unbiased view of the situation.

Most teacher office visits are simply to clear up misunderstandings. “I saw you leave school before the designated time!” the administrator might assert. “I had to make it to my son’s sporting event, it was a one time occurrence” the teacher humbly answers. “Next time let me know ahead of time, hope you made it” would be a reasonable administrator response. Other meetings can be more serious dealing with allegations from students or parents. The union representative is present to be an extra set of ears and make sure the teacher’s contractual rights are followed. Representatives help calm nerves to enable clear communications about the situation. Imagine hearing serious allegations from an administrator all alone!

Teachers learn how to teach. They learn how students learn. Learn the in’s and out’s of curriculum, best practices and how to integrate technology. No where in their educational process do they learn how to read a contract and deal with allegations (which can often unwarranted). Teachers go into teaching to help students and feel that everything they do is what is best for their students. Misunderstandings and mistakes happen. This is when an expert in the contract and teacher rights is needed. The teacher’s union provides this expertise.

There are so many reasons to be a member of your teacher’s union. Five main reasons listed here. In a time of need teachers need someone to help guide them to their best decision. Union representatives provide this support. No teacher ever plans on getting called to the office but it can happen when they least expect it.

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