Again, a long time has elapsed since my last blog post. As many of you know, this was my third year teaching in Florida and thusly the last year I was able to work with my temporary teaching certificate. Since I was a non-education major, during my first three years I was required to get education credits and take several other courses before I would be eligible to apply for my professional certificate. Since I (a) am great at waiting until the last minute (b) have been laid off and re-hired twice, I didn’t start the three-year alternative certification program until this past November. However, since I do have extensive experience in cramming, bullshitting and typing really super fast, I was able to pull this all together in a little bit over seven months – while, mind you, I was also teaching full time and tattooing nights and weekends. So, congratulations to me, I got it all done just in time to be laid off due to supposedly “necessary reduction in force,” aka Article 26 of what the corrupt and sleazy Broward School Board and Broward Teachers Union call a fucking contract. Instead of sacrificing a raise for the following school year, as the Dade Teachers Union did, these are some of the “concessions” the BTU suggested to save money, in addition to non-renewing contracts of all first and second year teachers.
The district’s education professionals have offered to increase student instructional time by 10 minutes per day, which would benefit the students and allow the district to close down for up to five days at a savings of $2.7 million.
They have also offered to forego health insurance during the probationary period of all new instructional staff hires at a savings of the $800,000.
Gee, no health insurance for the first three months on the job and an extra ten minutes working per day? Let’s screw the students and the new teachers a little more. Most teachers will see this and think: OK, awesome. I’m going to let my students play “silent dynamite” for those extra ten minutes! All of this being said, my point is that I choose not to join or support (give part of my paycheck to) my workers’ union. It may be a very conservative mindset fueled by my personal experience, but I think that every worker needs to earn their keep on an individual basis of effectiveness instead of years working. I know for a fact that I work harder and am more proficient in my subject area as a third-year (not burnt out yet) employee than many of my seniors. I know a teacher who has been working for over 20 years in her subject area but has come from another county and thusly was laid off due to her status as a “second year” worker in Broward. To put it in laymans terms, age ain’t nothin’ but a number. The seniority-based protective practices of the teachers union are unfair to new employees and are turning away people with energy and conviction to spare. The bottom line should be how well you do your job, which is not measurable by years alone, student test scores or overall school performance, but individual assessment of individual classrooms.
I absolutely love the school where I have worked for the past two years. I loved the school where I worked during my first year and had to be transferred away from due to a previous “necessary reduction in force.” My principals have loved me. My co-workers have eventually, despite constantly being told I look like one of the students, always respected me. My students (35+ per class this year) have learned and grown in a controlled yet creative environment. I’ve worked my ass off while others – whose jobs are safe – have been satisfied with showing videos and giving out worksheets and coloring pages. And now I’m faced with another summer of having no clue what this next school year holds.
Despite the fact that I have no love for the BTU, I still attended their “Fight for Our Future” protest in downtown Ft. Lauderdale a few weeks back, where the top photo of myself and my co-workers was taken. The last time I went to a protest downtown, my friend Julia and I got a lot of attention from our hand-drawn signs and I accidentally signed up for a communist newsletter. The estimated number of teachers, parents and members of the community who showed up ranges from “almost 1000” to “over 2500”, and I tend to agree with the higher estimate. The streets were filled with people ringing bells, holding signs and little kids, and wearing shirts that said things like “I make a difference every day.” One of the most meaningful things to me was the drumline that showed up from a local high school. As a group of students marched back and forth in front of the school board building with snares, bass drums and cymbals pounding and crashing, I couldn’t think of a way that learning could be more clearly evidenced. I know my times tables and can recite all of the states in alphabetical order, I write this blog and read everything I can get my hands on, but nothing has made such an impact on my life as experiencing the arts first-hand. The power to create something from nothing – whether it was through music, stage, or visual art – is a power that is being stripped from our students more every day.