Why teachers’ unions?

I had always accepted the union as gospel… until I thought about it.

Unions are traditionally for factory workers. Yes, teaching is based on the factory system: come in with the bell, teach the next chapter in the textbook (the task for the day), leave at the bell. But that was 100 years ago: teaching is not a factory-style job anymore.

There are way too many demands, and way too many aspects that require finesse, emotional intelligence, and caring.

If you’re just gonna punch the clock, you might as well stay home.

The union says they “protect” us, but the protections hinder as much as they help.

For example:

As per my local contract, I need to work from 20 minutes before school starts until 20 minutes after school ends.

It is difficult to be a good teacher working within those confines, because it’s impossible to do all your prep, marking and parental follow up in about 40 minutes. Last week, it took me 4 hours to evaluate a class set of assignments, and I was working fast.

But the union says, Hey, you aren’t obligated to work outside those hours! They can’t take advantage of you this way!

What they’re also saying is, Hey, they’re not going to pay you for the work you do outside those hours. 

So you can’t get overtime; you can’t make more money for more effort.

The union is supposed to make everything fair, but it polarizes us. Union protection gives bad teachers a place to hide, and it robs good teachers of the rewards they deserve for going the extra mile. So in the end, everyone conforms to the average.

Do we want average teachers?

Cover photo by Thomas Vitali on Unsplash