For classroom teachers to harness their professional power, they must raise their collective voice, engage in collective action, and exercise their right to organize. In the past 12 months, educators in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Los Angeles, and elsewhere have done just that.
For years, staff shortages, lack of resources, and overcrowded classrooms have led to burnout and overwhelmed our nation’s talented teachers. A 2018 report published by the AFT, “A Decade of Neglect,” demonstrates what happens when funding for public education gets slashed time and time again. Even as other sectors have recovered from the Great Recession, funding for schools has not returned to its pre-recession figures. This is unacceptable.
Union activism is on the rise. Just look at the increasing number of protests, the walkouts, and the backlash against a backward way of thinking about teachers and their unions. We’ve been in several conversations where administrators or consultants have lamented the inability to hold professional learning without compensating teachers, as if treating teachers well runs counter to the interest of students.
This myth is one that we need to work hard to dispel. A reliance on overworked, stressed teachers, coupled with a lack of funding for support staff and resources, negatively affects students. So what can educators do? We know that workers’ ability to organize is one of the best hopes of creating thriving cities and towns. See the Share My Lesson resources “Organized Labor and the American Dream” and “People Power Section 3: Strikes” to learn for yourself—and also teach your students—how engaged citizens can change the world through harnessing their collective power.
Increasing Teacher Voice in Decision Making
Many teachers are afraid to speak up because they just want to focus on doing the best they can for their students. But if we don’t add our collective voice, decisions will continue to be made to us, not with us or in our students’ best interests. See our “Teacher Leadership” resource page and a blog post on elevating your teacher voice. We must rise up.
Teachers can also share the AFT’s report on the incredible effects of educator-led collaborations and solutions, and a blog post on how distributed leadership empowers school staff. Share My Lesson includes a wealth of opportunities for free professional development, news stories, and ways to network with colleagues. Let’s use these resources to elevate the profession as a whole.
Sharing Our Perspective
As educators, we have a unique lens into student experiences with a wide range of issues, such as autism, sexual assault, and immigration enforcement. Legislators and the larger community need to hear our perspectives because we have important ideas and information to share.
Share My Lesson contains resources for each of these areas and more. See our resources on supporting students with autism, lesson plans from our partner Stop Sexual Assault in Schools, and a webinar on how immigration enforcement policies are impacting students and teachers.
Educators are often considered the backbone of a democratic society. Even with all the forces arrayed against us, educator unions are increasing in number and influence. This is good news and a trend that must continue.
Do you have ideas for how Share My Lesson can bolster your professional power? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
–THE SHARE MY LESSON TEAM