Archive for the ‘education’ Tag

WRAL’s Coverage on North Carolina’s Treatment of Teachers

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Link to WRAL video

Teachers say they feel state officials don’t respect them

 

This past Monday our local media outlet WRAL afforded me the opportunity to share my motivations on leaving the teaching profession. During our conversation, Laura Leslie displayed an honest concern for the plight of educators.  The story highlights the disparaging treatment of teachers by the current Governor Pat McCrory. With edits aside, I know all the individuals interviewed for this piece had a lot to share in their discontent of current treatment by the GOP led North Carolina government.  The following are some further thoughts on this topic:

All Educators deserve the right to fair compensation and a livable wage as professionals. And by fully recognizing the power of education, policy makers could better address the diverse societal challenges in North Carolina.

I believe that:

1. A Well funded Education system brings significant benefits to society: skilled workforce, greater employment opportunities, income tax contribution, and an improved social status.

2. Education is a profession of lifelong learning. Highly qualified and trained teachers will generate successful student outcomes. Attainment of additional degrees and certifications should be compensated

3. Its not just about “doing more with less.” Teachers are amazing problem solvers so thats not the issue. Teachers are asked to do more and more with less and less and teachers have reached the breaking point

My Background:

– both parents teachers/admin with 30 and 35 years of experience in Education

– 13 years in the teaching profession with 4 years of teaching experience in Canada

– Master’s Educational Admin

– designed and facilitated 2 magnet elective courses in Physics – Skateboard Science the Physics of Motion and Cosmology

– School based Technology Coordinator

– Presented at NCSTA this past November on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as well as Integrating Technology into the classroom inservice training at the school level

– secured Donors Choose grant for new laptops

– Last teacher evaluation I scored a majority of “Distinguished” level attributes/indicators highlighting a high level of my effectiveness as an educator

Working conditions:

– Mon Wed Fri – 14 work hour days at Brain Balance Achievement Centers

– Tue Thurs – stay at school to keep up to date on grading, parent communication, lesson prep, discipline reports etc..

**The second job for many teachers is not a choice, its survival**

– class sizes grew each year, money for classroom supplies fell each year.  30+ is not an environment conducive to providing students the attention they deserve as being a part of a learning community.

Morale

– altruism (coaching, arts performances, academic clubs, and all donated time activities) is a part of teaching accepted by all those who teach.

– the reality of being able to provide for ones family carries significant weight when planning for the future. When both time and money are monopolized it leaves very little quality time with ones family.

My position with respect to the NC governments view of education…

A budget that does not include a pay raise, eliminates extra pay for advanced degrees, phases out teacher tenure and cuts funding for teacher assistant positions is not placing the future of North Carolina as a priority. Teachers are; venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and are the ultimate job creators. Teachers deserve to be shown our appreciation with a respectable wage.  

 

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Resignation Hesitation

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

In the beginning I was a teacher, I grew to be an educator and now find myself seeking to be respected as a professional. The following represents the motivating factors that influenced my decision to resign my role as a public servant and begin the transition into the private sector.

Oh Education, how I have loved being intertwined with your pedagogy, respected by your admirers, growing with each swing of the initiative paradigms, and experiencing the numerous, exuberant characters that entered my classroom each and every period of each and every single day. Education has provided for me the opportunity to coach sports teams to championships, guide Science Fair participants to record breaking gold medals and placements,  mentor youth at risk and aid in their finding a focus and purpose in life.

Parallel to serving the needs of students, Education as a career presented an opportunity to assist fellow educators become more efficient in their respective disciplines through various Professional Development sessions I was able to facilitate; Science Ideas that Motivate, Social Media in the Classroom, Web 2.0 Services for Educators, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). To top this all off lets go ahead and add in a Masters in Educational Administration degree and that my teacher evaluation holds me as a “Distinguished Educator” as measured by the diagnostic tool for my State.

I share all of this with you not to brag, but rather set the context for the remainder of this post so you may know that what is shared from this point forward is not from a jaded, do nothing, leech on the system individual just biding my time until tenure. I am not a teacher who was only in education for the “summers-off”.

Where to begin…?

Wages – I make less now then I did 6 years ago and have not received a raise in that same amount of time. Sorry, one caveat to that as there was a 1% raise that was accompanied by a 2% increase in Social Security deductions.  This reflects the statistic that being ranked 46th in teacher pay with the average NC teacher making $10,000 less then their cohorts in other states.

But wait, “teaching is not about the money!” and you’re right IT’S NOT!

Parents – Yes, parents can be stressful at times but when one takes into consideration that a parent’s most important job is to ensure the success of their child, one can appreciate the vigorous approach parents take towards education.

Students – No complaints here about the students. Yes, a few tend to annoy a person, but to complain about this a person would have to be a total jerk. They’re kids; get over yourself. I have had amazing students who provided constant checks and balances of ego, kept me up to date on the lingo/music/movies/dress etc… I will miss our daily interactions and professional dynamic the most.

Colleagues – Those with whom I work on a day to day basis have been some of the most innovative, respectful, caring, dedicated individuals I have ever met and tears will be shed for this loss. If you have a moment give the Lunch Crew a read and you’ll know what I mean.

What, then? What can be left…?

Leadership – Well, we have finally arrived to the heart of this post.

Bossvsleader

http://www.lolwall.co/lol/264722

During the past four years the leadership that governed my day to day existence was one of a Leader, not that of a Boss (see above image for clarification). Now, we all have issues or disagreements in one area or another with coworkers and Leaders; there are people few and far between that may agree 100% with our thoughts and pedagogy, and that’s okay; we all should not think the same. I had freedom to create, innovate, expand, and push the limits of creativity in the classroom.  Because of this freedom and trust, I was willing to accept those things I didn’t agree with, and any discontent was marginalized through this filter of reciprocity.

If trust in the teachers is removed, innovation will be stifled. If the creative freedoms of educators are actively suppressed, the climate of engagement at a school will drastically change. The preceding examples correspond with a Boss mentality:

 Do as I say not as I do. Do it because I said so. I don’t have to explain my actions. Loyalty that is to rise but seldom does it trickle down and pleasantries are feigned only when a specialized skill set service is required and arbitrary decisions of restructuring are implemented.

All of the above qualifications are symptoms rather than the sickness. That which is lacking, the true sickness, is that of a mission, vision, purpose, focus; what is lacking, to bring it all under one concise term, is a Philosophy.

In a profession like education there are two distinct sides to the profession: instructional and administrative. Although in the past I may have vehemently disagreed with my next comment, I have come to see some truth in it. An Administrator is better off having classroom experience. The obvious caveat to this is in respect to those duties that tend to focus solely on the business side of education, those duties being strictly administrative in scope. However; when instruction and the overall vision of the school is at stake having a background in the classroom is essential. It is always quite apparent when a Boss lacks an Educational Philosophy because lacking, too, are viable explanations for decisions perpetrated on their staff.

It is really easy to create an environment where teachers feel undervalued, under-appreciated, underpaid, and under the bus: when teachers are met with over-zealous, over-reaching,  overt retributive actions by a Boss. I know; I’ve lived it and seen others around me drown in it as well. A Boss can count for only so long on the philanthropic nature of the classroom teacher until the stark malevolent reality must be addressed.

So what do teachers do in this situation? THEY LEAVE. A teacher may choose to transfer to a new school or they may even leave education altogether. Teachers with any years of experience know that, at heart, there is little deviation between school aged children of similar socio-economic status regardless of City, State, and yes even Country and having taught in another country I know this to be true.

I know what you’re all wondering, and the answer is YES, I too have now left Education after defining myself as an Educator for thirteen years. For me, it is about Leadership. It is about seeing the same traits in administrative Bosses time and time again and realizing that no matter how I could try to shoe horn myself into a Boss role, my philosophy will never match the foot print. Boundaries are self imposed limits to which one can choose to duck under the orange safety ribbon and abound in the pleasantry of freedom and innovation afforded by such an act. Or one could choose not to transcend into an unknown and stay on the beaten path or beaten on the path.

I choose to duck under that ribbon and I cannot wait to see what awaits. How about you?

The following are related articles and content that I just did not have the ability to address in this post. Please take the time to read what these Educators had to say about their experiences:

A Warning to Young People: Don’t Become a Teacher

Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’

A letter from a disgusted teacher: I QUIT

Reciprocity

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

This is entry 3 in a series. If you would like to read the preceding posts in the series follow the links: I did what now?! and Compliance

Simply said: I do for you and you do for me. On the surface one may feel that the only reason why someone would act within the guide of reciprocity is the expectation of return action. Reciprocity goes much deeper than that. Give and take elements govern the majority of our relationships whether or not you may recognize the subtle exchanges that take place. Exchanges can range from; an emotional fulfillment from a caring friend, assisting in moving, sharing responsibilities, assisting in the completion of errands/tasks, intellectual support and the like.

Although many of the exchanges listed may lend themselves in retrospection, to our more personal relationships they are present in our work life. Ever have a coworker ask for your help in completing a task? Reading over their report? Making those last few copies? Covering for them (insert reason here)? Recovering that lost document? These, along with a myriad of examples bouncing around in your thoughts, are reciprocal actions. We help because we know that at some point we are going to need help.

No man is an Isand, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the belltolls; It tolls for thee.

– A famous line from “Meditation XVII,” by the English poet John Donne

 

If, as individuals, we could handle all that is placed upon us there would never have been ingrained in humanity the division of labor and communal living that has led to our survival as a species. This holds true for the workplace as well. As a community in the workplace we rely on one another’s assistance in both task completion and emotional wellbeing. Harm to either one of these safeties will have far reaching effects. As I discussed in Compliance the repercussions can run deep through an institution where reciprocity is replaced by demand.

 

So what needs to happen?

Be nice!

Communication before action.

Allocate resources to ensure success.

Always help those who need you.

Don’t act with the sole intention of reciprocal action.

Be nice! oh wait did I mention that?

Set personal agendas aside and do what is best in the situation that will have positive long lasting effects (if you don’t know the best course of action then talk with your cohorts).

Realize that people have sought you out because they think you are capable of helping them. Help them!

Make sure that within whatever role you play that you have afforded those you work with every possible opportunity for success.

Lastly… BE NICE! (I guess we just cannot get away from that one).

Compliance

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Every role places us into an environment of expectations. Job, family, community, and to each of these a specific set of governing rules. In particular I d like to focus on the job and embedded expectation that accompany any workplace.
From a management perspective Compliance in the workplace may be leveraged in several ways; Investment by an employee in the total scope and purpose of the company, positive incentives such as monitary gains as interwoven in benchmarks and successful project completions, or the altruistic sense in assureing the success of your clients and the long term relationship gained. Knowing that the preceding list is far from comprehensive, all that I have mentioned is on the good side of compliance. Good as qualified by those actions that connect to a higher purpose in work and serving the needs of the client.
Now wouldn’t it be nice if we could end there and be happy? If only work life was so rose colored. Alas we too must delve into the mier of compliance as dictated by negative incentives; authoritarianism, threats, personal retributions, the arbitray restructuring of focus and support, and generated instability within the work force.
It is my hope that from those of you who read this post your day to day work life motivation is derived from the list of positives rather than being under the heavy weight of negative disincentives. However, for those fall prey to the latter, the rest of this post is for you…
“DO IT BECAUSE I SAID SO!” A simple utterance posited to nearly every child throughout history in an attempt to gain compliance from a parent. Well, I am not a child!
I am an adult with 13 years of experience in my discipline and have a track record of commitment, creativity, conscience and consultation (along with a little alliteration) to best achieve desired out comes. So why is it that I feel like a child when demands are levied upon me in the fashion of: “Do this, NOW!”
Personality defaults aside we all react in the same way when a higher up levies a demand in this manner and although some of you may be better at hiding your disdain at the time, the fumes of discontent eventually rise engulfing your demeanor and seep into the fibers of your being. As we sit in this fog of frustration along with the recollection of events playing back an ever present “who do they think they are?” Resounds and each echo carrying with it the expectation of respect and the violation held in the exchange.
What to do? Some will continue on doing their job with little to no affect, others may seek an alternative place of employment and others may subtly undermine the system though various forms of malfesient. However something worse may take hold; they just might meet expectations rather than exceeding as they once may have done. This last response, although sounding quite miniscule in retaliation, actually caries with it the most subtle and far reaching act of retribution in non compliance then those preceding it as optioned. I say this as not only has the individual made a conscience choice in opposition to the individual who is at the core of the disrespectful action but too those in proximity and that may request of the individual an extension into action that was once customary. The loss can be compounded depending on the size of the social leverage the new dissident carries as they may inspire others to inaction and a slow down of productivity.
Imagine all of this from an ill formed heiracically based command demanding conformity of action resulting in grotesque obsolescence of employee engagement when there are many other more positive ways to leverage action within the workplace.

Stay tuned for leveraging via resiprosity

I did what now?!

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

On leading…

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are numerous articles and texts that a person can read that may provide guidance in developing leadership skills, unfortunately, this is not one. Rather this is an anecdote illustrating the impact of lacking such skills.

Throughout education training and classroom management skills development, the concept of treating those who enter your classroom as individuals with unique experience and thoughts to share is touted quite vehemently. Support their learning and encourage each individual and success will be achieved, easy enough right? Well, how about this situation? For those teachers out there reading this I would bet a month’s wage, just think you can get yourself a tank of gas and maybe a coke, that you have had this experience… A student is in proximity to other students who are misbehaving. Not fully knowing the breadth of the situation you pull the group together and reprimand them all guilty and not. You may have achieved your desired goal of setting those misbehaving students back on their academic course, however; are you aware of the unintended consequences of your actions?

Through your actions you have created a new dissident among your ranks. That one non guilty student whose guilt lies only in proximity to the event now sees their experience lined with distrust and Machiavellian actions governing their environment. Is there any way to reconcile these new found understandings dwelling within this student? Maybe, however; at its core there is no way to repair the damage done within the relationship. To be wrongly accused of an action and to receive no conciliatory acknowledgement has to be one of the most disengaging acts held between two people. Damaged as it may be a person well aware of the situational power dynamics that govern actions in hierarchical relationships realize that the outcome in action can be narrowed to only one end course of action, Compliance.

To be continued…

Keep an eye out for the upcoming posts:

On Compliance and On Reciprocity 

 

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking when Stakes are High

Monday, June 4th, 2012

“Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking when Stakes are High” by Kerry Patterson delves into a world of high stakes conversations bringing to the readers attention assumptions and narratives that often drive not only our engagement into situations but also our reactions within situations.
A conversation tips into the crucial when two or more people are engaged in high stake, opinionated and emotionally taxing conversation. According to Patterson people respond to these critical situations in one of three ways: avoidance, face the issue and handle it poorly, or face the issue and handle it well. Throughout the remainder of the post I will discuss influences, areas of focus and ways to combat our hardwired reactions.
One of the first steps in reducing the negative impact crucial conversations can have on our relationships is create a shared understanding of the context definition rooted in the act of conversation… dialogue. Patterson defines dialogue as the free flow meaning between two or more individuals (Patterson, p.44) and within this dialogue there lies the potential for conflict. More often than not people tend to avoid stressful conversations, however; no solutions nor growth can be derived from a lack of conversation. In chapter 3 Patterson posits that individuals who excel during high stakes conversations are those who start with heart (Patterson, p.54). Starting with heart requires an individual to be self reflective and examine the motivations they bring to the conversation as they work to remain focused on the facts of the conversation no matter the emerging increases to stress levels. Within this reflection and focused approach participants in the conversation must stay clear from making a suckers choice (Patterson, p. 54).

A Suckers Choice is a limitation of action as imposed upon by the individual narrowing one’s thoughts to winning or losing, or the either or choice. In order to avoid the suckers choice one must clarify what one wants and does not want to be able to find the pathway back to dialogue. More often than not individuals make a suckers choice when a quick easy descison with high emotional connections is made. When all parties needs are not taken into consideration the intellectual and emotional safety of the participants is compromised. If during a conversation a person believes their safety has been compromised their reactions may manifest in several ways with the first being silence. “Silence consists of any act to purposefully withhold information from the pool of meaning. It’s almost always done as a means of avoiding potential problems, and it always restricts the flow of meaning” (Patterson p. 75). The second tactic a person may employ is masking. “Masking consists of understating or selectively showing our true opinions” (Patterson p. 75). Masking can be delivered via sarcasm, sugarcoating or couching. Thirdly a person may simply avoid the situation or other party altogether thereby never having to address the issue. Finally a person may opt out of the conversation and exit the conversation or the room itself.

One can see that feelings of safety are essential to discussions, however; as safety is compromised and people move to silence others are compelled to cognitive violence. “Violence consists of any verbal strategy that attempts to convince, control, or compel others to your point of view. It violates safety by trying to force meaning into the pool” (Patterson p. 77). Individuals may engage in conversational violence via actions of controlling the tempo and flow of the conversation, labelling the other party as a means of dismissal, or a person will approach others by attacking with the intent to belittle and/or threaten the other person into agreement.

Becoming a vigilant self-monitor is key to breaking the silence or violence reaction in crucial conversations. Individuals are pre loaded with emotional reactions and unless one takes the time to reflect on what triggers this default reaction one may never be able to restructure their response. Pausing during the conversation and taking a moment to be aware of one’s emotional state is essential as it can allow a person time to refocus and scan the conversation for mutual purpose in an attempt to further dialogue. Mutual purpose is simply the common goal of all parties involved and the investment they carry into the outcome of the decision. Through sharing a mutual purpose tension in dialogue may be reduced as all parties are invested in success. While engaged in establishing or reestablishing mutual purpose one should always make sure that the other party knows that their concerns are being acknowledged and no hidden motives underlie the decision. Patterson suggests employing the CRIB strategy: Commit to seek mutual purpose, Recognize the purpose behind the strategy, Invent a mutual purpose if one is not currently present in the dialogue, and Brainstorm new strategies.

Patterson also suggests to utilize in concurrence with CRIB a listening strategy of Ask, Mirror, Paraphrase, and Prime or AMPP to ensure individuals stories, a person’s narrative which drives their reactions, do not break down dialogue. When individuals Ask they should be looking to see if they understand the context of the other person as it has been presented as this is where mirroring comes in to help a person truly understand the other’s point of view or concern. As a means to further the dialogue within the mutual purpose framework paraphrasing is essential as it allows for the generation of continuity in the conversation. Finally with all other connectivity elements in place it is time to prime the conversation with mutual purpose as an endpoint to achieve the shared goal of all parties.

It is also important to establish clear decision making policies. Patterson cites four ways decisions can be made: command, consult, vote and consensus. All of these pathways reflect the level of involvement of parties connected to the issue or concern in discussion. Each of the decision making approaches carry with them benefits and detriments to the decision making process. It is important to choose which individual or combination of approaches best suits the situation. Command in decision making reflects the least amount of contribution from third party stakeholders and has its place in the deployment of initiative or problem solving. One must take into account the greater the pool of contributions via consultation or voting the longer the decision making process may take and comprises from both sides are an essential element. Consensus contains the most involved dynamics in crucial conversation. Consensus is going to be more laborious in time dedicated to sharing concerns and establishing mutual purpose and the possibility that this in turn may generate more crucial conversations is an element to be aware of.

We all have the ability to keep our emotions in check when stakes are high and chemicals start to run our thoughts as it takes effort and commitment to understanding roles, purpose, expected outcomes and group dynamics that work in times of easier decisions and especially during more difficult decision events. Always remember you have the ability to effect any discussion in a positive way and help stakeholders reach mutually beneficial results.

Perception is everything…

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Rory Sutherland’s TEDx presentation on perception lays a framework and explores the circumstances of our lives in relation to the meaning we impart about those situations. Rory states that the event itself may matter less than how we see the event.  Rory makes a compelling case for how reframing is the key to happiness. Watch the video below…

Perception is Everything

Educational Association

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

A thought on Educational content associations…

The creation of resource stacks presents an opportunity to apply ones ability to associate content for the purpose of support in a variety of subject areas. This is followed closely by a reflection on the numeration of total links required to generate legitimacy in the specific content area. Time pressures associated to educational disciplines tip quantitative estimates to the lower end of the spectrum as a continuum of like minded articles and resources reinforce pedagogical view points and stacks the deck quite easily in favor of one idea to the next.

As an educator one must work diligently to avoid confirmation bias and continually be open to new ideas and approaches in the classroom. Favored practices may no longer meet students where they are nor provide academic currency in reaching students academic needs. New and varied approaches may need to be implemented as one works to connect with students. Reflection on pedagogical approaches, content delivery and data sets from test scores are all valuable tools to a maturing educator and should not be looked at individually as a whole child picture is required to best understand the specific needs and approaches needed to ensure student success.

North Carolina Association of Educators v. Political establishment (paper)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The following was composed as a final assignment for my Master’s in Educational Administration. Its focus is on the NCAE and its presence in education in North Carolina. Feedback and comments are encouraged. Thanks.

Introduction
The current educational climate in the United States is one of severe budget cuts, thousands of teacher and support staff layoffs, increased class sizes, cuts to school programs and extracurricular activities compounded by reductions in program funding. The lack of union representation in North Carolina is a mitigating factor allowing the House to pass draconian cuts to education facing limited opposition. The teacher workforce has a voice through the North Carolina Association of Teachers but have limited legal recourse outside of waiting for the general elections on House representatives. Similar events have transpired across the USA even in states where unions do speak with a collective voice for educators. At the time this paper was written Ohio voters rejected a bill that would have stripped collective bargaining rights, eliminated binding arbitration as well as remove the ability of public sector union members to strike. In the midst of all of the labor events, rallies and discussions, my focus turned towards events and discussions taking place in North Carolina as these events have a direct impact on my career. Throughout this paper I am going to explore the relationship North Carolina legislators have had with the education field paying particular attention to the North Carolina Association of Educators and the role they have played in support of education.
North Carolina started with two distinct education associations in the mid and later 1800’s. The North Carolina Association of Teachers was organized in 1857 followed twenty three years later by the formation of The North Carolina Teachers Association organized in 1880. These two associations existed independently until 1970 when The North Carolina Association of Educators was formed on July 1, 1970, by the merger of the North Carolina Education Association and the North Carolina Teachers Association. Documents merging the two associations were signed at the National Educators Association Convention in San Francisco, California. The amalgamation of the two education entities resulted in the NCAE being one of the larger state affiliates of the NEA ranking 14th of the 53 NEA affiliates(NCAE, 2011). NCAE adopted an amendment to their Constitution requiring unified membership with the National Education Association in 1974, effective with the 1974-1975 membership year. Today NCAE is an all-inclusive association with specific categories including teaching and non teaching school personnel eligible for membership. Teacher assistants are eligible for membership in the North Carolina Educational Support Personnel Association which is directly affiliated with NEA. The total membership, including all types of memberships; active, associate, student, retired, and staff is approximately 70,000 (NCAE, 2011). NCAE also has the largest Representative Assembly among the 53 NEA affiliates. The ratio of delegates to active members is 1 to 20 with NCAE’s 131 local units in public school districts, special State schools, and institution of higher education. There are also members in local units too small to qualify as official local units as at least 10 members are required. NCAE is governed by an annual Representative Assembly and a Board of Directors with the Board meeting about six times a year. NCAE employs 74 support and professional staff including 34 employees in regional offices across the state with its headquarters in Raleigh. The state president serves as the full time chief executive officer of the Association with the vice president-president elect also serving full time along with the executive director serving as the chief administrative officer of the Association.

As cited on NCAE’s web page under core values, mission and vision the following are listed as NCAE’s core values: 1) Equal Access – NCAE values equal access to a quality public education that is adequately and equitably funded. 2) Diversity – NCAE values a just society that respects the worth, dignity and equality of every individual. 3) Collective Action – NCAE values an informed membership that works collectively to advance and protect the rights, benefits and interests of education professionals and promote quality public education. 4) Partnerships – NCAE values partnerships with parents, families and communities, as well as coalitions with other stakeholders because they are essential to quality public education and student success. 5) Professionalism – NCAE values the expertise and judgment of educational professionals and believes it is critical for student success. NCAE maintains the highest professional standards and expect the status, compensation and respect due all professionals. 6) Shared Responsibility – NCAE values a collaborative community of members and staff who share the responsibility of achieving NCAE’s goals. Aligned with NCAE’s core values is its mission statement to be the voice of educators in North Carolina that unites, organizes and empowers members to be advocates for education professionals, public education and children which is further supported by NCAE’s vision of an equitable, quality public education for every child (NCAE, 2011).

In chapter 7 Godard presents union formation at a theoretical level focusing on the Orthodox Pluralist perspective which places workers at a disadvantage in the workplace and unions as a means to level the playing field. Godard discusses how workers rights increase as she/he joins a union they are now part of a larger group that has a voice to management as well as this being a natural response to the powerlessness of workers. Unions are seen to give rise to the workers as a collective voice to protect and advance their interests given their place within the industrial capitalist economies. Godard also draws attention to weak or non existent labor movements going hand in hand with authoritarian governments and vice versa. The authoritarian government element of Godard’s view of labor management relations is evident in North Carolina’s right to work ideology as manifest through legislation effectively removing the ability of labor to unionize.

One of the major hurdles for NCAE to overcome is the right to work ideology governing North Carolina law. Right to work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states as allowed under the provisions of the federal Taft-Hartley Act. The statue’s prohibits agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership, payment of union dues, or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Implementation of the statue’s would require the workplace to be a closed shop.

Prior to the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act by Congress over President Harry S Truman’s veto in 1947, unions and employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act could lawfully agree to a closed shop, in which employees at unionized workplaces must be members of the union as a condition of employment. Under the law in effect before the Taft-Hartley amendments an employee who ceased being a member of the union for reasons ranging from failure to pay dues to expulsion from the union as an internal disciplinary punishment, could also be fired even if the employee did not violate any of the employer’s rules. The Taft-Hartley Act outlawed closed shop unions as they existed prior to the right to work legislation as the law changed the dynamics of workers rights in relation to the union shop rule no longer requiring all new employees to join a union after a minimum period after her/his hire and making such requirements illegal as it was also illegal for any employer to force an employee to join a union. A similar arrangement to the union shop is the agency shop, under which employees must pay the equivalent of union dues, but need not formally join said union. Section 14 (b) of the Taft-Hartley Act goes further by authorizing individual states, not local governments such as cities or counties, to outlaw the union shop and agency shop for employees working in their jurisdictions. Under the open shop rule an employee cannot be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union, nor can the employee be fired if she/he joins the union. In other words, the employee has the right to work, regardless of whether or not she/he is a member or financial contributor to a union (Right to work, 2011).

North Carolina was in support of the right to work ideology as Department  of Labor and Labor Regulations Article 10 Declaration of Policy as to Labor Organizations. N.C. General Statute §§ 95 declares…


§ 95-78. Declaration of public policy.

The right to live includes the right to work. The exercise of the right to work must be protected and maintained free from undue restraints and coercion. It is hereby declared to be the public policy of North Carolina that the right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or labor organization or association. (Enacted March 18, 1947.)

(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)


In N.C an individual is free to work regardless of their affiliation with a union however Article 12 of the N.C Gen. Stat. covering the assembly of members and collective rights of workers states…

§ 95-98. Contracts between units of government and labor unions,trade unions or labor organizations concerning public employees declared to be illegal.

Any agreement, or contract, between the governing authority of any city, town, county, or other municipality, or between any agency, unit, or instrumentality thereof, or between any agency, instrumentality, or institution of the State of North Carolina, and any labor union, trade union, or labor organization, as bargaining agent for any public employees of such city, town, county or other municipality, or agency or instrumentality of government, is hereby declared to be against the public policy of the State, illegal, unlawful, void and of no effect.(Enacted 1959.)

(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)


Adding to the state’s power under the right to work N.C Gen. Stat. Article 12 subsection 95-100.

No provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 applicable to units of government or their employees. The provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 of the General Statutes shall not apply to the State of North Carolina or any agency, institution, or instrumentality thereof or the employees of same nor shall the provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 of the General Statutes apply to any public employees or any employees of any town, city, county or other municipality or the agencies or instrumentalities thereof, nor shall said Article apply to employees of the State or any agencies, instrumentalities or institutions thereof or to any public employees whatsoever. (Enacted 1959.)

(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)

 

The right to work concept of labor governance is in stark contrast to the democratization function unions are to bring to the working environment. According to Godard the democratizing function of unions is to introduce the aspect of democracy into workplace relationships. Godard describes the democratizing function as; providing workers with legal representation, collective representation, regulating the exercise of managerial authority, reverse authority to work from bottom up via a collective voice of workers, and over all allows workers to participate in a democratic workplace environment (Godard 2011, p184-6). Worker frustrations as a result of management’s removal of labors voice can only increase tensions between management and labor. As Godard states in chapter 13,


As is the case in authoritarian states, workers cannot elect or appoint their rulers, and they have little or no legal rights to participate in the legal governance of the organization for which they work. This, coupled with the conflicts which underlie labor-management relations, means that distrust and resentment almost always pervade the workplace, albeit in varying degrees (Godard 2011, p. 333).


Even though NCAE is prevented from acting as a bargaining agent the organization states in article 3 section 12 in reference to collective bargaining that the NCAE believes the passage of collective bargaining should be a priority of the Association, and that the Association should seek support from NEA in this effort. Although NCAE is restricted from forming a collective voice the organization does attempt to support its members in other areas in much the same manner a union would. As NCAE tax documents detail the purpose of its mission includes, [Tax] Exempt status under 501(c) 6 with a purpose to advance the interests of educators and the promotion and protection of welfare of the association’s members along with advancing the interests of the teaching profession (Luebke, 2011). The NCAE Constitution cites within its Articles support structures at various levels. Article VI Section 2 discusses the role of Local Affiliates in that the Association shall support its local affiliates in their efforts to negotiate contracts and/or improve personnel policies with their local boards of education, and shall support its locals in their efforts to be recognized as the exclusive agent and initiate the bargaining process (NCAE, 2011) Expanding outward in the structural dynamics of NCAE the next level of representation as covered in Article VII Section 1 outlining the functions of the Representative Assembly shall be the statewide representative body of the Association and shall have the following functions: a) to serve as a policy-making body on behalf of the membership in carrying out the purposes of the Association, b) to review the work of the commissions and committees of the Association, and c) to receive, to review, and to take action on proposed amendments to the constitution, according to the procedures set forth in Article XIV. In this capacity the NCAE’s members role at the local level is similar to a union local with the local members being based on geographical ties and having voting rights within the organization. NCAE also has within its organizational structure a Parent level which has approximately 113 locals that are affiliated under the same name and are subject to constitutional guidelines and structures (NCAE, 2011).

The NCAE’s guidelines and structures are outlined in the organizations platforms and resolutions. In chapter 8 Godard cites several union functions being; to take wages out of competition, organize the unorganized, provide expertise in grievance handling, provide strike support, and represent the members inside and outside the labor force (Godard, 2011 p. 203-9). The following are NCAE Platforms and Resolutions from 2011 highlighting specific areas that are connected to union based functions. Paragraph 10 discusses the Fair Employment and Dismissal Act…


NCAE believes in the principles established by the Fair Employment and Dismissal Act and will oppose any weakening of this important legislation. NCAE affirms its belief that all professional educators, including those who are probationary (1992), should be covered by the Act. (1984) (2008) (p. 2)


covered in Paragraph 11 Professional Rights and Responsibilities…

NCAE believes in the fundamental right of educators to organize in their own self-interest and to speak out in defense of educators, students and parents. NCAE strongly supports the right and responsibility of each educator to be actively involved in all levels of a professional organization. NCAE further believes that these rights should be respected to the extent that there will never be any fear of reprisal or limitation. (1984) (2008) (p. 3)


Also highlighted in the NCAE document are current resolution goals working to further the organization’s support of educators:

Goal 1: -Develop a strong program of professional advocacy for education.
Goal 2: -Strengthen the Association and increase service to members.
Goal 3: -Intensify the drive to protect and secure human, civil and professional rights.
Goal 4: -Improve the economic well-being of educators.
Goal 5: -Promote excellence in education.

The function of the goals listed above align with the roles and functions of a union in their support of educators however, lurking within the legislation framework of North Carolina is the work to rule law as cited in Article 12 subsection 95-98 which severely restricts the collective voice of NCAE preventing the organization from acting as a bargaining agent in contract negotiations and teachers would be ill advised to take job action particularly strike.
With severely limited means by which to effect educational legislation without retribution the NCAE has to incorporate various tactics to inform its members and create a collective voice outside the scope of traditional union roles. In this aspect the NCAE plays the role of a lobbying group. The NCAE encourages political involvement via their legislative alerts# section link on their web page which contain ‘Action Alerts’ that outline educational issues, provide an article for background information, talking points for the particular issue and the contact information, including email and phone number, of the House representative asking educators to ‘Take Action’. The most recent listing on the ‘Action Alerts’ page highlights Tom Tillis, the House Speaker, and the 27% pay raises several of his staffers have received in contrast to teachers wages remaining frozen. NCAE offers the following talking points to share with House Speaker Tillis; 1. educators have not gotten a raise or step increase in 3 years, 2. NC teacher pay is at 45th nationally, and declining, educators have administered & met expectations of the ABC testing program & the General Assembly has not paid up in 3 years, 3. the Tillis budget will take NC to last in almost every educational category yet he finds the resources to give pay raises to advisers within months of their employment (NCAE, 20). The NCAE also encourages direct political action as stated in Article 2 Section 13 of the NCAE Political Action Committee,

NCAE believes that the NCAE Political Action Committee should be involved in the election of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Superintendent of Public Instruction and all other political races which affect education. State and local PAC funds should be used to support those candidates who support legislation guaranteeing equal treatment of men and women. Support of this concept should be used as a determining factor when deciding between two equally qualified and education-oriented candidates.

(NCAE, 2011)


Evidence of this type of political action is reflected in NCAE’s active steps in support of political candidates as the NCAE and NEA contributed $1.8 million dollars to Gov. Perdue’s 2008 campaign (Bejan, 2011). Another example of political involvement was the NCAE took a stand this past June in reaction to the Legislative House overriding Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of the budget which placed education funding on the chopping block as the Republican-authored budget would lead to the elimination of 6,000 teacher and teacher assistant jobs and drop North Carolina to 49th in the nation in funding per pupil (Perez, 2011). Frustrated but not defeated, hundreds of educators organized by the NCAE stood out front of the state capitol in Raleigh for a lobby day and to deliver 10,000 pennies and copies of the state constitution (Perez, 2011). The symbolism of the penny reflected the cut of a penny tax which resulted in a loss of one billion dollars in education funding for the state. NCAE president Sheri Strickland spoke to the public assuring educators, parents and students that NCAE is going to continue this battle. Strickland said,


It is unfortunate that today legislators have decided they do not want to listen and they have chosen to turn their backs on our future. . . But our efforts will continue.  We may have not been able to save the one cent tax today but the fight to save our schools will continue.


The battle continued several weeks later when another NCAE lobby for education funding drew a crowd of approximately three thousand in support. However, the Republican majority House took retributive actions towards NCAE by passing legislation removing the ability of NCAE members to have NCAE fees drafted from their paychecks and require a one time payment of $415, for a full time educator, or monthly payments via checks to be mailed to NCAE headquarters (Bejan, 2011). Perhaps if NCAE was granted union status the inequity of political power could be leveled as well as an established voice of the education profession could speak on behalf of labor.

Assuring the political power of NCAE and the organizations ability to back candidates the NCAE is classified as a 501(c) 6 tax exempt organization. This tax status affords NCAE the ability to lobby and contribute to political campaigns. The NCAE along with its parent organization the NEA are able to influence political campaigns by spending PAC money endorsing political candidates. Since the NCAE Constitution requires NCAE members to be members of NEA it helps to create the largest teacher union in the nation, although with the right to work laws as they are in NC the membership carries little weight here. As a part of any political game the NCAE frequently criticizes the influence of powerful corporate interests in American politics while at the same time making contributions to electoral favorites. NEA and local affiliates like NCAE do represent a large political influence on American politics as indicated below the NEA and NCAE spent the following on political influences in the past three years:

  • In 2008, NEA spent $56.3 million on political campaign contributions.
  • In 2009 NCAE made $710,716 in nondeductible lobbying and political expenditures

2010 Contributions:

  • NCAE contributed $172,950 to candidates. Democrats received $170,650 in contributions (98.6 percent); Republicans received $2,300 in contributions (1.3 percent).

2008 Contributions

  • NEA and NCAE contributed $1.8 million to help Bev Perdue win the 2008 Governor’s race.
  • NEA spent another $1.7 million on campaign ads for Bev Perdue.

(Luebke, 2011)

NCAE holds as one of its core beliefs standing up for the rights of educators and educational causes and exercises this right through donating to education friendly candidates. The NCAE is performing duties in support of education within the confines of an authoritarian right to work state. If not for the attention NCAE draws when it organizes lobby days education issues may not be on the forefront as they are now. It is unfortunate that as NC law currently dictates the NCAE having a limited voice in management – workforce relations, at least NCAE can continue to be active within the political scene. Hopefully NCAE can work towards further legitimacy and gain status as a full fledged union once the political climate migrates more in favor of labor rights. It’s time NC realized its public employees should not be treated so poorly. If teachers were all given fair consideration by lawmakers instead of being looked upon as a taxation burden there would be such a need for unionization. Until attitudes change via the removal or retirement of leadership, it looks like union representation is a teacher’s best chance at gaining respect and a collective voice in the workplace. One must remember although the taxpayers cough up the money for education, the politicians decide how to spend it and don’t always follow the will of the people. Also, even though I work for the state that does not mean I do not have legitimate grievances and concerns. I refuse to simply roll over and allow the state to do what they will. A better education system with high morale among teachers helps the state.

In fact, I am a proponent of a state employees union with different sections for various public sector professions but it seems as though the only obstacle in NC unionizing is the antiquated right to work law. The state is already balancing pay and benefits against other areas while some of those other areas often have a great amount of pull while teachers get the short end of the stick. Having a union does not mean that you get what you want but rather it means that you have some leverage to balance the power dynamics between management and labor. As some may suggest, teachers who are in favor of unionization are simply being selfish, greedy and are more focused on self preservation than educating children. Nobody goes into teaching for selfish reasons or because the pay and benefits are so great. The reality is that until North Carolina affords union rights to public sector workers, teacher will continue to be pawns pushed around by politicians and by some members of the public who have no experience or reference for what is like to be a teacher and think teachers already have an overpaid and cushy job.

References


Bejan, W. (2011, July 05). Wisconsin union battle: framing the debate in north carolina?. Retrieved from http://www.nccivitas.org/2011/wisconsin-union-battle-framing-the-debate-in-north-carolina/

Godard, John (2011).  Industrial Relations, the econo Ontario: Captus Press Inc.

my, and society. (4th. ed.). Concord,

Luebke, B. (2011, May 03). Ncae: Looking out for children, members, or itself?. Retrieved from http://www.nccivitas.org/2011/ncae-looking-out-for-children-members-or-itself/

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. (2010). Right to work states: north carolina . Retrieved from http://www.nrtw.org/c/ncrtwlaw.htm


NCAE. (2011). Core value, mission and vision. Retrieved from http://www.ncae.org/cms/Who We Are/2.htm


NCAE. (2011). Ncae take action. Retrieved from http://capwiz.com/nea/nc/issues/alert/?alertid=50551501&type=CU&show_alert=1


Perez, F. (2011, June 16). North carolina legislators vote to override gov perdue’s budget veto. Retrieved from http://www.educationvotes.nea.org/2011/06/16/north-carolina-legislators-vote-to-override-gov-purdues-budget-veto/


Right-to-work law. (2011, November 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:26, November 17, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Right-to-work_law&oldid=460023487

Slightly Shumay School site

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Slightly Shumay School site

At the beginning of this school year my colleague Mr. Taylor added our school to Google Apps for Education allowing us to integrate Google tools and apps to use in our classroom (more on this to come soon). As a part of our initial set up I created a Google Site for our classroom and topics, check it out.