Friday, November 14, 2014

Work To Rule...the Introduction to the Saga

There are a lot of things that I should do more of. I guess we all fall into that trap. One thing I always feel like I should do more of is support our teachers union and honestly be more involved in many aspects of our district. But like so many folks I just don't have any more time. Before I knew it I like, many of my fellow teachers, we have found that our union negotiations are not going as planned and that the union was calling for a teacher protest entitled "work to rule."

What is the first word that comes to mind when I hear the words "work to rule"?  Conflict. I am about to have many conflicts in my little world. The union has a conflict with our district and now I have conflict of interest. Do I follow work to rule, meaning only work my contract? 7.5 hour work days would have me in at 8:05am and leaving at 3:35pm. I am still under contract to do the marching band class but would technically be done with contract hours before marching band practice ends. I can't end marching band practice early at the end of the marching band season. There are so many letters of recommendation to write and emails to respond to. What do you do with this conflict? Do you "punish" the students and cancel parts of the band program because its outside of my teachers contract?

I wasn't sure what to do so I started thinking about it. Then I read the following statement that  was prepared by my colleague, friend, and band parent for our parent community and students:

"Dear Parents and Students. 

I'm writing to solict assistance on an urgent matter. Despite a significant increase in funding to our school district, the teachers have not yet been given a new contract. Our union, the East Side Teachers Association, is pushing to reduce class sizes that were increased during the economic downturn and is seeking a long-awaited pay increase for teachers. Because the district seems unwilling to negotiate these issues in good faith, our union leadership has called for all teachers in the high schools of East Side Union High School District to state a protest called "work to rule." This protest is designed to bring the negotiators back together to work ou issues about class size and teacher salary. The phrase "work to rule" means that teachers follow the letter of the contract and stop doing any activities that are outside of it, such as working with students during breakj or lunch or before or after school. The goal of this protest is to encourage students and parents to contact the superintendent and school board to urge that negotiations be conducted in earnest and in a timely manner."

I am sharing this as part of my blog for many reasons: Its a my space in the internet and the world and its my platform. Many other teachers may have faced these and other similar challenges. My blog is to help other teachers. So if this helps one of my friends out there then its worth posting. And I want to be transparent with my students. 

Its a conflict for me to decide what to do because I didn't get into this profession because of what the contract said it would pay me to do. All along I have been here at Santa Teresa to create the band program that I always dreamed of running and Santa Teresa has been the BEST place for me to do that. I would never change working here for one minute. I am proud to be an employee of East Side Union High School District and Santa Teresa High School. 

Work to rule has made me take a step back and evaluate what my job would look like if I worked to the letter of the contract. It has helped me focus and prioritize both my personal and professional time. It has made me conscientious about my work and the time that I have to do it in....or not to do.  My contract is complicated because of my stipend and my complicated course load but none the less I determined that I couldn't do work to rule. Not now, not in the end of marching band season, winter concerts coming, chamber groups starting, jazz band auditions pending, etc. No way was that going to happen. But I could take a look at the things that I could do to support work to rule. 

But I am trying to limit what I do outside of the contract. And honestly that means that I do need to see both sides of "work to rule". This means that if I am only to try to only do what is in the contract then I need to only do East Side Union High School District work when I am at work and on the clock. That means no personal text messaging, no facebook, no personal emails, no calling the doctor, no surfing the web for personal items. For me it also means not responding to emails from CMEA Bay Section during my prep period or answering questions about the Music in the Park Festival or writing a recommendation letter for one of my marching band staff members. If I am going to do work to rule those other things that get mixed in my day need to be outside of my work day. And to the best of my ability my work day needs to stay when and if at all possible in my 7.5 hours. 

In rehearsal time alone I provide about 2.5-6 hours of supervised student time during the week beyond my contract. I volunteer, I respond to emails and I attend meetings just to name a few things. I support our students by taking them on field trips to music festivals and concerts. I do this because I love my job, but work to rule reminds me that those are above and beyond our contract. And this program and my job wouldn't be the same without these contributions. 

Today I was faced with an interesting conflict. My pit instructor became ill and he was thinking about canceling part of the practice but I didn't want to see that happen and was happy to volunteer my time for the group. I could have asked my staff member to pay me for taking the rehearsal or invoicing the booster club for my time but my pit instructor does work all the time for me that is above and beyond the call of duty.....especially when it comes to technology. Some of his help we would say is being a good friend or great employee but its also outside the scope of the contract he has with myself and our booster club (STMAA). And so I don't mind stepping up to help in this way....and my booster club takes GREAT care of me so I do feel compensated and supported. But the biggest reason I stuck around is because I could work with the students and make them better as we approach the final weeks of our marching band season and that is the real reason why I stayed after school today despite work to rule. 

I saw other teachers around. I couldn't tell if they were watching me work after school with our kids during this protest or if they were checking out the great work that the percussion section was doing. I am hoping the later but its probably a combination of both. I hope they know how much of a conflict it is for I hope it is for them....because then I know that we care. 

I am sharing with people the fact that I have conflict and its distracting from my work. That conflict is not having a contract. We work hard for these kids and our community and it would be great if we could be compensated for that. I ask both sides to work together to come to a resolution. 

I am not asking for sympathy. I LOVE the extra things about this job. The music festivals and competitions with the students are the best parts. There is nothing like working with a single student or small group after school and having a musical breakthrough. I didn't get into education for the pay check or the contract....but a positive, conflict free, work environment is something that we all deserve. 

So help support myself and my fellow teachers. In our own district and in mine. Specifically for those in my local community, consider asking both our union and our district to work together towards a resolution. Every student needs smaller class sizes. Teachers need more compensation and we deserve, a three year contract so that we aren't in the same place again next year. Provide me and other teachers with the stability that I have found with my school administration & staff, my students, and my amazingly support booster club. They are a big part of the reason why our band program is so successful and I never want to see that change. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Julie,

    I found this blog post interesting because our system is going through something similar. The union wants us to work to rule and the superintendent has commented that she knows the teachers in our system won't do that because they know they will only be hurting the students. This is such a tough position to be in! I think if everyone in a single system truly worked to rule for say one or two weeks, just to give the community a taste of how little would be accomplished, it could be a great demonstration of how much work teachers do outside of their contractual hours. I know I personally put in 10 hours a week IN SCHOOL outside of the contractual hours just do do my job well. This doesn't include any extra time spent at home. I can't even imagine what that would add up to! I do feel that we all went into teaching for the same reason, the kids, and we knew what we were getting into when we signed on. At the same time, our country in general needs to a better job supporting teachers and compensating them more for the time they put in. I'm not sure what the answer is to prove how hard we work. I really think parents are super appreciative and know how hard we work with our 24/7 job, but I'm not always sure my administrators know the extra time I put in both in school and at home. I think it would be for selfish reasons I would want to work to rule just so they could see how little would be accomplished if I truly stuck to my hours so they know how hard I really am working. I don't know if they notice how much extra time I'm at work and that my car is often one of the first, if not the first in the lot. But really does that even matter? I chose this job so I could make an impact on children's lives in a musical and/or non musical way like my teachers did for me. If that means I have to put in the extra hours to achieve my goals as a teacher, I will. Of course I wish we got paid a bit more for the time we put in, but you can't put a price on seeing yourself make a difference in a child's life!

    Amy, Band Director in MD