If Florida teachers aren’t going to strike, then it is time they just worked to the contract

If teachers aren’t going to strike, something I believe we
should do and would win, then starting now, they need to work just to the
contract. The entire education system depends on teachers giving millions of
unpaid hours, sacrificing their time with friends and family and what little money
they have to make sure things keep moving. Enough, if we aren’t going to be
treated with respect and compensated appropriately then from now on the system should
just get an honest day’s work and nothing more, you know like every other profession
is expected to do.

Two things, you might be thinking you can’t do that, that
your students desperately need all the extra you do, well in the moment you
might be right but in the long term you are hurting them and every student that
will come afterwards. The system has no incentive to change if we keep giving
and giving while receiving nothing commensurate in return. Then how about this,
try it for a week. When your day is over instead of staying and working go home
every day for a week. I guaranty you, things will not fall apart. People will
survive, and if grading piles up, give fewer assignments. If we are not going
to strike then we need to exercise what power we have, and that’s just to do
our job, nothing more, nothing less.
For the last couple years’ teachers all over the nation tired
of being blamed for society’s ills and both paid and treated like second class
citizens rose up in protest and demanded more pay and better working conditions
and they won too. Sadly, Florida’s teachers did not join them, partly because
it’s illegal to strike, what teachers did in Arizona, West Virginia, North
Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma and so many other placed did, and partly
because half of Florida’s teachers are at will employees and can be fired for
any or no reason. In short Florida’s teachers felt stuck, they felt powerless
to do anything. Well I say no more because even without striking we have power.
I would like teachers to seriously consider something. It’s not
reviewing the latest scholarly article or their pedagogy. It’s not putting
yourself in your children or their parents’ shoes to see where they are coming
from either. Where those things are important what I ask you to do is much more
so and much less at the same time. What I am asking you to do is just work to
the contract, nothing more and nothing less.
For decades now, school systems have only been able to function
let alone succeed on the backs of the unpaid labors and sacrifices of their
teachers. If it wasn’t for millions of teachers working late into the night and
on weekends, often at the expense of their own friends and families’ education
would have grinded to a halt and the powers-that-be both know this, depend on
this and have taken advantage of it.
     
Teachers by their nature are givers and I am here to let you
know that their altruism is a big part of the problem. It might sound counter
intuitive but if teachers were a little more selfish, both they and the system
would be better off.
Why should state legislatures and for that matter the nation
properly invests in education when they know they have millions of suckers who
will shore up the cracks with both their free time and own money?
The truth is this may have been an acceptable arrangement when
teachers were just required to teach but that’s not the case today, along with
being a psychologist, social worker, nurse, and tutor, we are expected to
collect and analyze data, be experts on technology, differentiate our
curriculum to meet every child’s individual needs and make individualized materials.
Teachers are now disciplinarians and truant officers because administrations
won’t get involved until you try multiple interventions or attempts, and we are
paper pushers, and boy oh boy do we push paper. When I started teaching just nineteen
years ago my lesson plan was a little box on a calendar, now it’s a two paged,
8 font monstrosity and then there is the data I am required to take on every
student, in every class, every day. Data that for the most part just sits there
helping no one. Teachers today often have fewer and fewer resources and more
and more demands and responsibilities. These demands also often take away from
the number one thing we are supposed to do, teach.
In short teachers are given way too much to do and not nearly
enough time and resources to do it, all while their actual pay because of the
rising costs of benefits and inflation is decreasing. Then societies demands
are increasing as well as teachers have become the scapegoats of much of society’s
ills. Because of this the dam broke in a half dozen states and those teachers
said enough and its time in teachers in Florida said enough as well.
Somewhere along the way things changed. Teachers went from
revered members of the community to the face, often presented as the lazy and
selfish face, of America’s problems. If only Mrs. Mcgillicutty could have
gotten little Billy up to speed instead of spending so much time in the
teacher’s lounge complaining is a sentiment heard from Chris Christie, John
Kasich, Jeb Bush, Betsey DeVos, the Trump Clan and so many others. They
blame teachers at the same time they cut budgets or raise them at a rate that
doesn’t keep up with inflation. They invest in high stakes testing, blame the
teacher evaluations and charter schools rather than the people doing the work
and teachers, as well as loading teachers up with more work, piling on responsibilities
while stripping them of authority, you, we, me, have let them.  
Does anybody see the irony in the fact that in a job that is
routinely ridiculed and mocked, that many imply is easy has seen defections and
shortages like never before?  
This must stop and step one is working to the contract. Teachers
need to start just showing up and giving an honest day’s effort for a day’s pay
but when the dismissal bell rings, just leave and don’t take home any work with
them. If it doesn’t get done that day then it goes on the pile for the next and
if it gets to the point where there is too much to get done, then so be it.
This is not a system created by teachers, but it is a system that teachers have
allowed to fester, and it is a system that will never change unless we say
enough is enough.
I’m not saying we should throw up our hands and quit. Instead I
am saying that if we stopped being afraid then we can make things better. The
crazy thing is right now teachers have the power. Florida recently declared a
critical shortage in just about every teaching position. States across the nation
are facing exoduses and shortages.
We need to stop working for free. If enough teachers did that
then this alone would send a big enough signal that things need to change.
I will be honest there may be consequences for doing and saying
the right things but if enough of us do it then there will be rewards as well
and not just for teachers though to be honest the better things are for
teachers the better they are for their students, but students as well as they
see benefits of their own.
A teacher not worked to death and pulled in dozens of different
directions is a better teacher. Smaller classes, and teachers given enough time
to plan, and who doesn’t have to rush to their second job or worry about paying
for braces for their child or new tires for their ten-year-old car, will be
better teachers too and that is a benefit that children would reap as
well. 
Teachers must stop letting the powers-that-be get away with
barely funding a system that all too often hurts teachers and students alike by
putting them in a position where success is nearly impossible to achieve. The
powers-that-be must be held accountable for the system they created, or the
system will never change.
There is a quote by Gandhi that many teachers like to use and
that’s “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change I would like to
see is teachers and students both getting what they need and if I have to do
less to make sure it happens then so be it.   
So, teachers do you and your students a favor, work to the
contract and not one minute before. Like many things it will be hard at
first but if enough of us do it then we and our students will reap the rewards.

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