Thursday, May 17, 2012

Shall We Fight Each Other, Or, FOR Each Other?

Recently, our teachers received two messages containing information from our administration.  In one, administration notified us of “voluntary” training dates throughout much of summer vacation. The other message  from our Superintendent  clarified that according to the RISE evaluation model, anyoneeven highly effective teachers, could be riffed.  These highly effective teachers, if recalled, potentially would not be rehired if a new-hire candidate from out of corporation was found to be a better match for the school; which ultimately, the Superintendent can decide.

At first glance, these two messages might seem unrelated.  But upon further inspection, one sees the “hidden message”: if you want to keep your job, you should attend “voluntary” training.

The current RISE system forces teachers to make one of two choices:

Choice 1:  We can fight each other.
Choice 2:  We can fight FOR each other.

Choice 1:  If we want to fight each other, we can start by sacrificing our vacation time, our time with family, by volunteering for training over the summer.  However, realize the demands won’t stop there.  This fall we can sign up to be on every committee possible, we can fill our plate with new duties – all of which we have been told might give us an elbow up on our competition.  I mean, colleagues.

Choice 2:  We can refuse to compete with each other by sticking together.  We can ALL simply agree not to volunteer for anything, especially training over summer vacation.

The consequences for choice one are these: Administration expectations will continually push teachers to the limit of what they will bleed for the corporation.  Can we pay for one less janitor if teachers will clean their own room?  Will you work two or three nights over per week to raise some needed number on a form to send to the state?  In fact, just how little monetary compensation will you need?  What will be your lowest bid for your job in years to come?

If you do not read the “hidden message” into the RISE evaluation, if you do not realize that a $30,000 a year new-hire is always better than a $45 to 60,000 candidate, you need to sit down with the world history teachers.  It’s a lesson that has been repeated time and time again.

The paradox of choice one (fighting each other) is that it inevitably leads to choice two (fighting for each other). It is simply a matter of how much compensation you are willing to give up; how denigrated you allow yourself to feel, before you have so little left you realize fighting for each other was the correct choice all along.

The consequence for choice two is a united front that begins to bring about positive change for teachers, students, families, and the entire community.

As for us, we refuse to participate at any volunteer training.  Although it may seem counter-intuitive, attending “voluntary” training has always been an unprofessional thing to do.  This is especially true considering the manipulative aspects of the RISE evaluation.

There is only one real choice: We must begin uniting and fighting FOR each other now.


  1. You are correct in that this is not new. Many industries have suffered what is happening in education now, often with deadly consequences.

    My grandfather was a miner in Wales. It was a dangerous profession. After coming to the United States, he found work in the steel mills, while friends went to work in the coal mines. He lost several friend in mining accidents and often reflected that each death could have been him. Conditions in the mines did not improve until workers and the community stood firm and demanded change.

    Miners, factory workers, and countless other professions tell the same story. We must understand history in order to control our future.

    These are scary times. However, working today for free will mean not being able to work at all tomorrow.

    Laurie Murphy

    1. Thank you for sharing your grandfather's story.

      Unfortunately, many generations have suffered fates such as his. It is even more unfortunate if we disrespect their memories by allowing history to repeat itself.

  2. We must not only fight for each other, but we must also identify our natural allies and bring them into the conversation. Parents across the nation are concerned right now about high-stakes testing and should be appalled that their children are being subjected to weeks of test prep and anxiety producing tests whose primary purpose seems to be to identify teachers who do not generate high test scores. Find ways to inform parents and get them involved. And along the way, check out and help end the insanity.

    1. Dr. V., You are absolutely correct. Teachers in this community, as others have done or are doing, will need to start creating the spaces where this coalition can exchange dialogue soon after we create space for ourselves.

      And don't forget, !

  3. we create by what we think say do. everything is a choice. right now most people are like programed bio-robots. skinner psychology. i believe in free will. this contract is an austerity measure- slow but sure- if we continue to remain without conscience. look at the world.

    1. Pax, Skinner phych is an interesting analogy I hadn't thought of. There certainly is a lack of critical questioning of administration at all levels. "If the state says to do it this way, then we better..."

    2. Right now the American public school system is a paradox. School is not made for kids. School is made to fuel the materials economy. We already know how to accelerate learning through multiple intelligence symbiotic learning systems and instead the American "education" system which is really schooling kids for the materials economy is based on grades- classes- standardization.

    3. In Hawaii teachers were told if they don't vote yes the second time for the same contract they already voted no for in January, then it implies a strike vote. This is a scare tactic. Unions must vote for a strike. If they vote no, it is for the contract. And I wonder when is the last time that people have read the American Declaration of Independence?