“‘So, has anything changed?’ This is a question I overheard during the “work to rule” action taken by our union. I’m not so sure how to answer that question.
It certainly seems at times as though our superintendent is unaffected by our decision to work our exact hours. He suggests that our doing so is no big deal. He suggests that we have somehow lowered our status by only working our contracted hours. “If they want to act like professionals, we will treat them like professionals. If they want to act like hourly workers then we will treat them like hourly workers,” he was quoted when asked about our decision. I have not seen central office change much to be honest during our time on “work to rule”. So maybe nothing has changed. Maybe.
But when I hear our superintendent being quoted like the one above, I feel bothered. You see, we educate the future professionals and hourly workers. We understand that each of our students have potential in many areas of life. We care for and encourage each one. We realized during this time how much extra time and effort we truly do put in because we all feel a void when we are restricted to only our contracted hours. We realize that when those around us lack an appreciation for who educators are and what they try to accomplish daily, then we must at the very least support each other. This thing we call education is hard. It is hard because life can be hard and we are intertwined with so many lives. We feel for the girl with the sad eyes. We rejoice with the smiling faces of success no matter how big or small. We reach out with our talents and our passion for this vocation we feel called to do. That passion rests in each of us. So when communication is lacking and our professional opinions go untapped, we feel frustrated. When our daily work gets harder we dig in. We demand the best of ourselves and our students. And so we deserve central office’s best as well. There are areas that we feel are important that need addressed in order to fortify our schools. These areas seem to be ignored.
Our numbers are great and our time is taken up with the daily task of educating a population of global learners that have many different needs. So we lose touch with each other. It has not been easy nor comfortable “working to rule”. But the mountains of negativity and ignorance toward us the past several years requires hardy souls if we are to forge a pathway towards better schools. And so year after year we sent a select few in to negotiate what is best for our schools. Yet each time they came back being offered what central office felt was the best business deal. Our concerns fell on deaf ears. And just as if we had a student in our room with such a deficit, we have tried numerous approaches to share our concerns. This led us to our most recent action. A few educators became many. A cause for fair contracts and a desire for educationally sound decisions brought us closer. We realized that while each of us have our own unique abilities and talents in this field we are bound by the desire to see this profession flourish so that our most precious resource, our students, can be afforded the best Austintown has to offer. We realize that maybe we do not have to accept silently the conditions and contracts forged out of a victory for lawyers’ abilities to manipulate. Instead, we found our voice. While it may not be a polished voice trained in ways to deceive, it is a voice of concern. We realized that we are not against the superintendent or the board of education, but instead we are simply for educators and education. I am proud to be a part this group called educators. This career is part of the very fabric of our lives. And we share this experience – together.
So what has this changed? Maybe we changed ourselves just a bit. We realize how we all need to improve our communication. We realized that our differences are required to meet the needs of our children. We realize that sometimes change is good, yet holding on to those things that work is not always bad. We realize that standing up for education in the face of criticism from all directions does not mean we should not model faith, determination and passion for those whom we care about.”