Comment: Teacher unions

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Teacher unions

""I am a kindergarten teacher," said Renee Theisen of Warren, Mich., whose school district was one of at least two in the state that closed today because teachers were taking leave to protest the legislation. "We just want our voices heard. This is important to us to belong to a union, and we want to keep it that way.""

I am a first-year teacher, in Virginia where we are non-unionized. I often tell my friends, if I ever decide to work for the state again, please talk me out of it. I have big dreams about working in alternative education settings that encourage kids to prepare for life as engaged citizens...I think the non-profit group Citizen Schools does a great job with this. Unfortunately, I took a position with the local school district and am quickly finding myself lost in the morass of bureaucracy that hamstrings good teachers who try to get things done.

But something I was even more shocked about, two years ago when I started my student teaching, was just how many teachers couldn't care less. Now, I hate making generalizations about people, but in addition to history and government, I also teach the kids in my alternative program job-readiness skills, and one thing I always talk to my kids about is the importance of first impressions.

Teachers like this Renee Theisen always seem to make a bad first impression with me. Primarily because they remind me of every teacher I've ever met who places their own comfort ahead of the success of their students. As a new teacher, I signed a 1 school-year contract to provide my services at a specified rate of pay. I am fine with that, because I don't fear what will happen if, at the end of the year, I needed to go elsewhere, and I think that if I work hard and continue to try and innovate, I will only become better at my job and more marketable. For many teachers I have met, however, success has merely become synonymous with keeping their current position. Ms. Theisen says that the teachers want their voice to be heard...what about the children, who are truly voiceless? Children are all treated like wards of the state nowadays, and predictably, many parents take the opportunity to abdicate responsibility. So how is Ms. Theisen helping these kids? By taking a paid day off of work and refusing to provide the service she was hired for? To what end? Here is a hint, union teachers: if you want to stop being jerked around by the state, tear off your own shackles and demand change. The entire system is broken, and the cause you choose to take a highly visible stand on is almost completely self-serving. Wake up.