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Dear Bunki and friend,
Although the situation in my district was not nearly as horrendous as the
one you describe, perhaps our solution would be of interest to you.
We (14) elementary art teachers had some serious issues including the way
our last contract divided up our teaching day so that our so-called "planning
time" occurred in increments of 3 to 20 minutes between classes. We were also
concerned about rumors that art periods would be cut from 45 to 40 minutes each
to make 7 or 8 periods per day in the new contract.
We are a fairly close group of teachers who meet monthly to share lessons
and refreshments, and we have some strong advocates and veterans as well as new
hires among us. We felt we needed to inform our union leaders about our concerns
in a constructive way. We collaborated on a written statement expressing our
concerns, elaborating on concrete reasons why they were neither fair, or
educationally sound practices, AND offered viable suggestions to resolve them as
well as our willingness to assist union leaders in bringing the issues to
resolution. We requested a 15 minute meeting with the leaders and the
negotiation team to present our statement. All 14 of us, dressed in our most
professional attire, came to this after school meeting. I must say it was
impressive, and the fact that the art teacher who read the statement also
happened to be the district's "elementary teacher of the year" didn't hurt
Although contract negotiations are not complete for the coming year, we have
learned that, as they currently stand, we will keep our 45 minute periods and
have 3 regular planning periods per week.
I believe the solidarity and professionalism of our group was instrumental
to this outcome. BTW, when the music and PE folks, who aren't as tightly knit as
we are, learned what we were doing, they got together to make similar plans. It
is important in doing something like this to keep your meetings on a
constructive track . Letting them deteriorate into gripe sessions is not
productive. It is the function of our unions to fight for us, but they can't do
that without the right kind of amunition. Small groups like ours need to band
together and make that kind of useful information known to them. If you are in
the middle of a multi-year contract, read your contract carefully and determine
how it fails you in meeting the educational needs of the students. Rally your
troops and bring this to the attention of your union leaders. They may be able
to do something to alleviate the situation before the contract period ends. I
wish you luck!
Linda in Michigan