Today, it became official, in my mind: a letter from the union head was placed in every teacher's mailbox, urging us to "work to rule." I had read about it in the paper, and a few people have been buzzing about it, but this is the first official word that we had received.
"Working to rule," is, as the letter explained, not completing any tasks not explicitly stated on the contract. No hall duty, no lunch duty, no staying past 3:25 and no arriving before 8:05. No advising any organizations. No writing any letters of recommendation. No grading or planning anything outside of the prescribed time. No buying any school supplies. No grading any work at home.
It's all pretty laughable. The awful feeling of being in front of a classroom without a proper plan is enough to dissuade me from ever engaging in something like this, and this is just the selfish side of me. You just can't negotiate with the kids as a bargaining tool. It's impossible to be an effective teacher working only 7.5 hours a day, and, thus, it's just impossible for me engage in something like this.
That being said, I'd be much more willing to engage in a full strike than "working to rule" (though, I wouldn't go on strike over this). A strike, at least, gets people's attention. A work to rule is bound to fail because most of the general public probably does believe that teachers work to rule anyway. I get the sense that most think like this guy does. In other words, how could teachers be asking for more planning time? Don't they already get 45 minutes a day? What other job needs planning time? Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure strikes are not allowed in this state.
It's apparently all over planning time. According to our Union head, we already get less planning time than any other district in the state. I don't know if that's true, but I definitely know that I don't want the BCPSS filling up more of our time with pointless professional development when I could be working for my kids. Still, it's hard for me not to wish that the union was doing something a little more useful. Can we get a cap on our student loads or class sizes, for example (say, 140 and 28?)? Or how about be guaranteed textbooks for every student? Or how about, I dunno, a phone in my freaking classroom? I don't ask for much. My classes of 36 and 37 would feel a lot better if there were ten less kids. I know the kids get a better education, and I also know that I just feel a lot more relaxed. Putting nearly forty 14-year olds in the same place, squished together in 93-degree heat is a recipe for lots of stress. That was me, about four hours ago, only I was in front of them, taking off points for chatter while we discussed our vocabulary.
Still, I guess this is where the contract negotiations are, and because it's nearly impossible to vote out a member of the BCPSS union, it's once again Marietta English who is in charge. Maybe class size and class load is out of the realm of possibility. Maybe the planning time is the only place where any negotations could occur. I know from experience that an inch turns into a mile really quickly when dealing with contracts. Giving up a planning period every other day could quickly turn into, I don't know, mandated test-writing sessions or something like that.
Anyhow, work to rule... I'm not doing it, and I don't know of any teachers that are, at least at my school. But today I left at 5:15 instead of 7:30. Vive la revolucion! I'll just pretend I don't have 60 essays in my bag to grade tonight.
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