Cry Baby

The Union Said I Couldn’t Wear My Favorite Color (and Other Absurd Assertions in Education Nation)

Cry Baby

First, watch this video. Then, predict what I might say to this, even before you read this title. Now, multiply that times two and that’s what I said when I watched this. Full disclosure: I was supposed to go to Education Nation, but I had an important date (my godson’s costume birthday party, where I dressed as Batman). Even still, I probably would have rolled my eyes hard at anyone who attended that event and said anything close to what this young teacher said because

a) she’s not helping relieve the stereotype that young White female teachers have no understanding of their surroundings when coming into the urban education system (not always true, but it happens often enough …)

b) as a corollary, she’ll either leave the job after 2-3 years of being in her alternative certification program and then head to med school, law school, or central offices as someone getting paid 30% more money to tell schools what to do

c) she really doesn’t understand what real teachers do.

I like working in these shades of grey because nothing’s ever black and white (pun intended), but teachers who get the work done never settle for what they believe is a union issue. Let’s ignore for purposes of this argument that, historically, time restrictions and workplace conditions were set as a standard for healthy and career teaching, and that without unions and the struggle behind them, teachers would still work in rat holes, have too many periods in a row without getting any chance to plan lessons or  and lose their jobs over meaningless minutiae because there was no such thing as due process.

Can we just agree that teachers just do what they got to do to make things happen for their kids? When kids needed me to stay until 5-6pm to tutor them in math, I never went to my union rep and complained. I just did it. When I wanted to work with my colleagues or call a series of parents one week, I just did it. Before school starts every year, I’m already buying materials and getting to my classroom (if my school’s open) trying to get a feel for my new classroom. And in no way do I consider myself a Superman in the classroom: I take after a ton of my colleagues who’ll readily do the same thing without getting on national TV and spewing another mal-informed opinion. I rarely go to my union except if it’s for some bulletin board mandate or my own understanding of the contract. Little more.

I also can’t be sure what her union rep is telling her or how administration has set expectations at that school, factors I can’t look into. I just feel like a part of the teaching profession gets cheapened by people who think silly things like regulations are preventing them from reaching their students in constructive and caring ways. I know principals secretly cheered her on, but they’re often as cognitively dissonant as some of the teachers in their building.

In other words, just get it done. Ask real questions. And know the ledge before you jump off it.

Jose, who will give his big announcement today …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonThe Union Said I Couldn’t Wear My Favorite Color (and Other Absurd Assertions in Education Nation)