Our national teacher unions are bending backwards trying to appeal to the new generation of public school teachers. Our leaders have been saying that within the next six years, two million new teachers will be added to our ranks. These newer teachers want help with their professional lives, and I’m sure they do, but not the kind of stuff our national unions are peddling.
I could be completely wrong, but I don’t think having canned lesson plans available to them is a vital concern. I doubt that they are as interested as our leaders would have us believe they are in staff development. If they are anything like the teachers of my generation, they want to go home at the end of their workday to take care of their own kids and do the preparation for the next day’s classes. They don’t want to sit and listen to the latest educationist twaddle.
I suspect they would like some help with the extraordinary amount of work we ask them to do. We spend so much time comparing our test score to those of other countries but very little comparing the number of hours teachers spend in the classroom. Our teachers are asked to do so much more than teachers in the countries we like to compare ourselves to. We ought to be putting our effort into the issue of class size. Some English teachers in my upper middleclass district have student loads of over 120 students. As an old English teacher, I know it is literally impossible to teach writing effectively with those kinds of student loads, but our national leaders say very about this.
In short, I believe that the goal of teacher unions always was and always should be power, the power to demand and get good pay and benefits; the power to demand and receive fair treatment; the power to practice our profession with the degree of autonomy necessary to do it well; the power to evaluate our students; and the power to shape the standards of good professional work. NEA leaders have begun talking about the empowered teacher, but somehow they don’t seem to want to empower teachers the way I do.
I wonder sometimes whether the public doesn’t view our advocacy for things like staff development and professional growth opportunities and National Board Certification and such as our admission that our members are not up to snuff because they require all of this assistance and improvement.