Sometimes You Gotta Stand Up

My name is Michael Kerstetter and I am the Secretary Treasurer of the KEA.  Last summer I had the opportunity to go to Washington, DC, for the Save Our Schools march.  I went because I could and
because I felt it was the right thing to do.  This first thing I noticed was that there were probably less than 5000 people (my estimate) in attendance.  I’m relatively certain that you could find 5000 teachers within a short radius of Washington, DC; yet, the most well represented group was the Wisconsin Education Association.  Others were well represented; Boston had a large group, Texas had a bunch, and several other cities and states had relatively large numbers.  As a representative group for teachers however, it was not a large gathering although it was still exciting and invigorating to march on the White House.  Matt Damon is a rock star, BTW.  Here is a link to his speech from SOS, as well as links to the speeches made by Diane Ravitch and John Kuhn, a superintendent from Perrin, TX and a very dynamic speaker.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7Jh3Z52KV0,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wWQmwPZEr8,
http://www.k12newsnetwork.com/2011/08/watch-this-texas-educator-john-kuhn-at-the-sos-march/

Wisconsin was there for obvious reasons.  They understand what it means to have their rights taken away, having just been through that, and they were ready and willing to stand with teachers from other states to ensure that this would not happen to them; to in fact, save our schools.  Others, apparently not so much, although I am very aware of the stresses and time constraints placed upon teachers.  I am one.  I understand.

On a personal note, I know that it is difficult to organize teachers to action, even small actions, because that is a good part of what I do.  I can always count on thirty to fifty people who are willing to step out of their comfort zones and do something for the benefit of the Association and I truly, sincerely thank and appreciate those people for what they do.  This is, however, an Association of about 1,700 members and generating interest in advocacy is sometimes agonizingly difficult.  Again, I understand why.

That brings me to my main point:  There is a level of activism that is necessary these days.  Teachers have to advocate for their own jobs and for their rights.  As we should have learned from Wisconsin,
it’s relatively easy to take rights away from people, and we should have learned from our own state that working conditions can be changed or eliminated by the vote of people who rarely, if ever, set foot in a classroom.  We have an election coming.  It is incumbent upon all of us that we do whatever we can to make certain that Washington does not become the next Wisconsin.  I don’t want to be an
alarmist, but we are one election away from that scenario.  Good people with good intentions allowed it to happen there and good people with good intentions need to stop it from happening here.  Be a part of the solution.

Thank you,
Michael Kerstetter
KEA Secretary Treasurer

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4 Responses to “Sometimes You Gotta Stand Up”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Perhaps people are afraid to step out of their comfort zones because they see principals violating the contract that was just ratified. Example: Principal talks in a demeaning tone of voice and with a scowl on her face to a teacher in front of another teacher. Isn’t this a violation of the Civility Clause we just adopted into the contract?

    At my school, I can see a possible complaint going to our KEA rep pretty soon now. Will a grievance take care of this?

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      New language in Article IV; Section D, says:
      “Civility: The parties acknowledge that adults treating one another with civility and respect is a fundamental component of a successful working relationship and an important practice to model for students. Therefore, criticism between staff and administrators will be made outside the presence of students, parents, the public arena or other employees.”

      A demeaning tone and a scowl? That could qualify, but it would probably be argued that it was merely a “concerned gaze.” Still, a couple of complaints of that nature and a visit from some KEA people would be in order, just to let the violator know that she is being watched for that particular behavior. Truly uncivil behavior should result in a grievance, but the spirit of that language should also guide the administrator in tone and body language. They already have power over you; there is no need to abuse that power or to remind you of it. Let us know if you are experiencing attempts at intimidation.

  2. Up to Here With It Says:

    In the Sept Compass it said to record any meetings we have that are required, “expected, or directed”. Well, our principal does not necessarily use those words. So, if our principal says, “I’d really like you to attend this meeting”, or if she says, “This meeting would benefit you and your kids in your classroom”, then is she expecting me to attend? I can tell you that in our building, our principal does use those words and in phrases like that, but she adds a serious and mean look to it as well! Many of us feel coerced into these meetings. Can we count those as “expected” then? She will also work through one of her “helpers” to direct us to a meeting. What then?? She also freely excuses some folks from not all, but quite a few meetings while the rest of us are required. Please advise. We need to be proactive, so we need some advice here. Thanks.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      You could test those waters by not attending any meeting that is not specifically cited as required, expected or directed. You’d find out soon enough if the principal was upset, annoyed or miffed (but not angry) that you didn’t attend. Seriously, we all know how to use a thesaurus, and there are tons of words that can be used to obfuscate an imperative. Ask her or have your Rep ask: Is this required? If you don’t get a yes, assume it’s OPTIONAL and treat it as such. If she comes back later and wonders why you didn’t attend, remind her that she did not say yes when she had the opportunity. Let’s try to get principals to stop playing games with semantics to try to fool, coerce or compel us into doing more work or attend more meetings.

      Assuming there is no curricular reason for excusing certain people (i.e., PE teachers at a reading adoption), I’d be concerned if some were required to attend meetings that others were not. Your Rep should find out why those people were excused from a meeting that was required. If she is using a helper to direct you to a meeting, ignore it. The helper can’t give you a directive. Again, test those waters by not going along with it and if your principal should say something about it, tell her that she needs to be more clear about her requirements and any directive needs to come from her.

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