Not Cease from Exploration

Monday, March 31, 2014

Response to Tom Borthwick's Comment, RE: Abington Heights Teachers

You can read my original posting and Tom's comment HERE.

* * * * * * * * 

Tom, with all due respect, you're trying to rationalize bad behavior, plain and simple.  Put yourself in the shoes of a student:

"You are nervous as heck about getting into college in the first place.  You are equally nervous as heck about asking a teacher...one that you trust...one that you have build a rapport with...to write you a recommendation letter for college.  You finally work up the courage and ask the teacher, only to be told no."

How does this make you (again, putting yourself in the shoes of the student) feel?  Words like "crushed" and "devastated" come to my mind. 

Now if you detect a note of passion in my writing here, it's because my three daughters all went through this same process; fortunately for them, they had teachers at Scranton High School who were willing to take the time (as you indicated you do) to do this in support of their students.  That's part of what makes teaching and teachers special:  truly being there for the students when they are needed the most.  Trust me, a student nervous about getting into college is about a needy as they come.

The above noted, what makes this whole mess even worse?  The fact that it's all about money.

Teachers can not simultaneously claim to be "for the students" while also being "for their own economic interests" when those two concepts collide.  They can't have it both ways, no more so than school district administrators can either, and I've been pretty critical of how school districts are run as well (case in point:  school districts allowing sports when academics are suspended during teacher strikes).

What's left for teachers?  Well pick one:

  • Informational pickets
  • Holding public forums
  • Stop chaperoning ski club trips (and other similar types of non-academic activities)
  • Binding arbitration (you know, the process by which taxpayer interest are secondary)
  • Striking

What shouldn't be on the list?  That would be forgoing the writing of recommendation letters.

Tom, this is a shameful act on the part of Abington Heights teachers and I suspect you darn well know it.  While I applaud you for standing by your union brothers and sisters, at the end of the day I can't help but think that you...yourself...would not abide by this kind of union edict if that anxious student came to you and said "Mr Borthwick, I'm really nervous about getting into college.  Could you write me recommendation letter?".  No, I suspect that you'd write the letter, simply because I don't think you could live with yourself otherwise.

1 comment:

Tom Borthwick said...

First, I love being the subject of your response posts, so thank you!

Onto the meat:

Okay... yes, I doubt I'd be able to tell a kid "no" -- you're right. Of course I'm trying to rationalize, I'm attempting to understand a different perspective without resorting to immediate, broad condemnation.

I agree with what you're saying. Kids are going to college and we have to help them.

The nature of labor disputes involve proving the value of that labor. If people are this up in arms, obviously the teachers are worth compensating appropriately. Correct?

As I understand it, the current impasse is about retroactive pay. Abington's Board has NO incentive to settle a contract, because the longer they stretch it out, the longer teachers stay frozen.

Contracts aren't just about money. I don't know Abington's details, but I know we are negotiating (without a contract, by the way) for a cap on class sizes. Right now we have classes with 34 kids in them, which is sinful.

But let's accept that the crux of a contract is benefits and money, the important question remains the same: what other options do the teachers have?

I'm all for binding arbitration, but there's no legal option for that. Striking is an awful option, which hurts kids. Who's getting a recommendation letter when the teachers are inaccessible? How will they get transcripts out? How will they attend the in-school college fairs and informational sessions? Striking sounds worse.

Public forums and informational pickets make lots of sense. I'm not sure if Abington went down this road. I know Old Forge did, to no avail.

They did scale back their other volunteer activities.

The public doesn't engage unless there's widespread attention. This got Abington that attention.

For all the pathos, the teachers are people who deserve a fair contract. Just like the kids deserve the recommendation letters they need.

(On a total side note, the college application process is basically done. Recommendation season is October-January.)

(On another side note, this has been enlightening. I'll recommend to my union NOT to go down this road if our contractual issues continue.)