Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Teachers Like Me Support Unions

Today is March 22, 2011. In response to all the craziness going on around the States, edubloggers have been called upon to submit a piece today to explain why we personally support unions, in the spirit of Edu-Solidarity. Here are my thoughts:

I wasn't originally trained as a teacher. By the time I graduated from college, I had an engineering contract in my hand that said, "$75,000 starting annual salary, with $10,000 sign-on bonus each of the first two years." I am not trying to brag, but I am putting those figures out there so that you know that I wasn't exactly aching for money when I decided, a few years later, that I wanted to teach math to kids in public schools.

Why does a teacher like me support unions? I support unions because I looked around at the age of 24, and I realized that if I went to California to teach, my salary would drop to be about $25,000, give or take. At the time, given my existing situation, that number seemed utterly unacceptable. I wasn't going into teaching for the money, but the percent loss I would have in pay seemed utterly unreasonable to me at the time. It made me almost give up the idea of teaching altogether.

In the end, I joined the NYC Teaching Fellows and moved to NYC, where the union is strong and the pay is better. Still a significant paycut, but one that I was prepared to make in order to give my dream a shot. --And I am so glad I did, because I would never have known what I would have missed out on. I am yet an inexperienced teacher, but I do not go through a single day without thinking about my job and worrying about my kids as though they were my own.

Without strong unions, we would not have the decent working conditions that make teaching seem like an attractive (or even viable) option to qualified candidates. --Let's not even talk about how the kids would be impacted, if they could only have disgruntled teachers who had chosen teaching only in lack of better career options! If kids are our future, then the teacher unions must be our present focus in order to fully support that future.

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