I went to grad school and law school for the sole purpose of protecting and strengthening public education. And I have used the last 18 years, since I was a freshman at Western, to learn how best to do that. My anger motivates me to get involved. Motivates me to make connections with teachers, administrators, community groups, non-profits, and businesses. And, most of all, it motivates me to work my damnedest to be an effective teacher.
Being an effective teacher is challenging and not a given, even with years of training and professional development. You can be an effective teacher one year and ineffective the next. Or effective one day and ineffective the next.
When teachers are ineffective, students are harmed the greatest. And there are students across this country with ineffective teachers who are not being provided the opportunities needed to learn and be successful.
That last paragraph should not be controversial. All professions have ineffective workers. But most likely, there are angry teachers in my profession who will read that paragraph and be furious. While my anger inspires the best in me, others' anger inspires the worst. Those teachers blame everyone else at the table for all that is wrong in the world. While there is indeed blame to go around, the outright conviction of everyone else often lacks any critical thinking or analysis.
Teachers United use to be a teacher non-profit based out of Seattle with founding members from Tacoma and Seattle. It was a group whose agenda didn't always line up with mine, whose agenda I often disagreed with, but a group that included some of the most respected teachers in the region. I became involved in a national fellowship that included about 10 teachers from WA, a majority of whom were TU members. Our fellowship was sponsored by Teach Plus and, more importantly, the National Education Association, the parent organization of the WEA. My fellowship was asked to make recommendations on how best to get early career teachers involved in the union. My fellowship included traditional public school teachers, Teach for America Teachers, charter school teachers, TU members, national board teachers, and award winning teachers. And we worked together extremely well.
Fast forward to the present. Teachers United no longer exists.The Seattle-based organization disbanded and a new, South Sound group was founded by previous TU members/founders, including Nate Bowling, rightly recognized this year as one of the best teachers in the country.
While I never joined Teachers United, I have joined this new group, TU 253, a teacher led group focused on making policy recommendations that support all students. I could have continued to boycott anything branded TU because of my past feelings, but that would not have been rational. I would have done so only out of anger. There are differences between the two groups and analysis of those differences made me want to be a member of a passionate, teacher led group that includes some of the most highly respected educators in the region, state, and country. Further, this group is respected by administrators, politicians, non-profits, and businesses. TU253 has a seat at the table. More importantly, it has a voice at the table.