Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Enlightening Conversations about the UFT's Most Dysfunctional Well-Intentioned Chapter

I would say that my school has the UFT's most dysfunctional but well-intentioned chapter for a number of reasons. I personally like my CL despite the fact that I think she has made some mistakes and I don't always agree with what she does in her role as CL. She is a nice person who has gone out on a limb for me, personally, and I honestly believe her when she says she wants to make some changes in how she manages things next year. I believe she earned my vote and I was happy to vote for her again for 2009-10, and I was pleased that she won the election.

That said.

Our chapter is in shambles. After the departure of our principal, who has had, as I have mentioned here before, something of a reputation for difficulty, everyone in the building wants to shake things up in some way. People who were never interested in anything union-related wanted to run for CL and delegate and join the CC--people who never bothered to attend so much as our chapter meetings, let alone attend anything else. I will admit that I am not the world's most engaged union member (at least not in a visible way), but I do regularly attend chapter meetings, even when I don't want to, and I'll send e-mails and make phone calls and what have you. Okay. And because I am not the world's most engaged union member, I think it would be fairly silly, at best, for me to run for any of those positions, but lo and behold, people far less engaged than myself are running for them. Silliness.

I had a conversation (hence this blog's title) with our current delegate today, a colleague I like and admire very much. We shall call him Mr. T. Mr. T is a fabulous teacher and person, and, as he is active in the leadership life of our school, I wanted to approach him about how to get more involved. I feel like a great many dictates come down from on high that I know nothing about and understand even less about, and I would like to be part of the conversations that form those decisions. I have no excuse for not being involved anymore; my instruction, grading, and classroom management are now slightly better than half-assed, and I'm not doing grad school anymore since I finished my M.S.Ed. and have no idea what I'd do another degree in. So SLTs and the like seem to be something I ought to get involved in. I figured Mr. T would know.

And he knew. Oh, did he know. More than I ever wanted to know. In a mere fifteen minutes, Mr. T filled me in on way more of the dirty dealings of committee memberships than I ever wanted to know. Did you know that Inquiry Team openings are supposed to be posted? You did? I didn't. They were never posted at my school. For the first time, I knew that you could express interest in being on the SLT and run for a position on it. I learned for the first time that anyone can show up to any SLT meeting and ask questions and bring up concerns. And I learned way more about the elections for CL and delegate than I ever could have imagined.

This quote from Tom Brokaw, which appeared in New York Teacher a while back, applies:

You've been told during your high school years and your college years that you are now about to enter the real world, and you've been wondering what it's like. Let me tell you that the real world is not college. The real world is not high school. The real world, it turns out, is much more like junior high. You are going to encounter, the rest of your life, the same petty jealousies, the same irrational juvenile behavior, the same uncertainty that you encountered during your adolescent years. That is your burden. We wish you well.