The Union I Know

As the Arizona temperatures begin to fall below a hundred, and the excitement surrounding “Education Week” in America begins to fade, we find ourselves with lingering thoughts. I know I find myself with sound bytes from the teacher accountability discussion on Meet the Press, the vision of sweet little Daisy who dreams of being a veterinarian from “Waiting for Superman,” and the belief that prevails from Michelle Rhee to Hollywood that the state of education isn’t so much about the teachers, as it is about the unions.

Schools are failing in America because of unions. Bad teachers are in our classrooms because of unions. Teacher Evaluation Systems are flawed because of unions. Unions equate to the status quo.

I beg to differ.

The union I know represents excellence. Yes, I said it-excellence. The union I know is the National Education Association. NEA represents excellence, because I strive to represent excellence in the profession, and I am a NEA member.

The gold standard of our profession is the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Among the founding organizations for National Board were the unions. Listen to my union president, Dennis Van Roekel, speak about excellence and he speaks about National Board Certification. NEA does not shy away from accomplished teaching, instead promotes it as a viable and necessary process to moving a teacher’s practice forward. National Board Certification is hardly status quo.

Mass media speaks about the need for our best teachers to serve high needs students, but that’s where it ends-talk. Those of us, who have committed our lives to “those” kids in “those” schools, know that it takes more than just teachers to change the status quo. If we are ever going to get serious about educational reform take a hard look at three things: LEADERSHIP (top to bottom), working conditions, and teacher effectiveness. NEA and the Center for Teaching Quality represented this truth and actions required to change the tide in their Children of Poverty Deserve Great Teachers Report. NEA brought our most deserving schools (the lowest 5%) together for a Priority Schools Campaign Forum to develop action plans that address “Change through Collaborative Engagement.” A campaign that continues to focus on bringing schools and communities together to transform schools across the country. Teachers, transformation, engagement, student growth all equate to anything but the status quo.

Evidence of my union representing excellence could be a documentary, except dispelling the myth of unions wouldn’t sell tickets, garner the attention of Oprah, or assist the movement to dismantle public education in our country.

Instead mass media and society will turn their head to the union I know, they will cling to the union they can blame. After all, life is so much easier when we maintain the status quo. 



Daniela A. Robles

Daniela A. Robles

Phoenix, Arizona

I am a teacher and beginning my fourteenth year of teaching in Arizona’s public schools. The greatest lessons I learned were from teaching first grade for ten years. My inspirations stem from these past few years where my classroom has ranged from the Intervention Room to the Coaches’ Room.

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