I am a big supporter of the teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, with Arizona on the horizon of a strike. It is important that people outside the field of education recognize the important role teachers have and begin to treat them as other professionals with competitive salaries and benefits. While some view teachers as the single agent that can bring about change (propaganda brought upon by movies like Waiting for Superman), we should recognize that teachers have lives of their own, too, and cannot devote every single bit of their time to the classroom. From these strikes, we see an assortment of educators who work multiple jobs to make ends meet. How have the working conditions in this country deteriorated so much for teachers, such that it's similar to the working conditions of the 1960s (see linked article above)? Salaries are despicably low and many states are now right-to-work states, which cannot collect dues from members to collectively bargain, effectively crippling the union.
It is inspiring to see the teachers strike despite the right-to-work laws. Something is finally being done about the low salaries we have endured. Since becoming a mother, time has become even more valuable to me and I expect to be compensated for the good work I do. I prioritize my time very carefully at work--making sure the plans and materials are ready for the week's lessons, making sure I differentiate all the lessons so all my learners can achieve in their zone of proximal development, and making sure I stay on top of my students' IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans). However, this work often takes up more time than there is in the school day. I am allotted my lunch and one prep period per day to do all of those things, so yes, I will take work home to finish once my children fall asleep in their beds. I wish special education teachers and teachers in general were compensated for the many hours they put in to teaching their students.
I think respecting teachers also means respecting and valuing their time. Respect the hours teachers work (e.g. end the professional development workshop when it is supposed to end so teachers can get home to their families) and compensate them for extra work they do outside of the school building (e.g. planning for math curriculum, preparing for project based learning experiences, etc.). The budget is part of the conversation of what's wrong with education in America these days. If politicians actually valued their teachers, they would prioritize education funding and direct it towards teacher salaries instead of the next new trendy fad that an outside education consultant with limited classroom experience advises.
Unionizing (collective bargaining at its best, even without formalized union representation) is important because unions not only protect students' interests (e.g. lower class sizes, making sure special ed students are entitled to their services, etc.), but they also help ensure that their teachers are well rested (not working multiple jobs) and have a livelihood of their own. Pay our teachers well so that we can raise our families while not having to sacrifice the profession we love.
The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and do not reflect those of institutions, organizations, or employers associated with me, past or present.