Monday, September 01, 2008

Live without Warning

One of my favorite lines comes from Green Day's "Warning": "Question everything! Or shut up and become a victim of authority."

Well, those are some words to live by. Especially, when it comes to the code of conduct we were supposed to sign last week.

Late Tuesday night I received an email from our union rep in Bemidji. He had received a fax of a conduct policy that was handed out at our elementary school (I had heard nothing of this). It was his opinion that we should NOT sign the contract until our lawyers could take a look at it and see if it violates our contract.

I nearly had forgotten about the email until right after Barb finished her safety presentation and our assistant principal quickly began handing out the conduct policy and stated that we had to have it signed and returned to him the following day.

I could see teachers look oddly at each other.

Then I thought, “Oh boy!”

I stood up and said, “As EA president I cannot advise you to sign that.” Then I began to explain the email I received the night before.

So the code of conduct was put on hold.

I almost had a heart attack as I had to stand up and speak my mind. If you know me, I am far too passive and introverted to thrive on such behavior. But it had to be done, and I did my duty as EA president.

I did, though, obtain a copy of the “Professional Standards and Code of Ethics of the Educational Profession.” Boy, is that some bad writing. That would have gotten the old red pen out if one of my students would have turned it in. I would have written, “Just tell us what you really mean?”

Which seems to be the key questions behind this policy.

I suppose even blogging about it might be a violation of the code of ethics, but since I didn’t sign it, too bad.

Overall, it seems to be a blanket statement to assure the public that we – teachers, administrators, and board members – are professionals.

This, of course, is foolish. If we aren’t, why are we allowed to work?

There is some language in the policy that suggests governing our personal lives and uphold high ethical standards, which is foolish as well. Divorces and drinking have been rampant in our community – especially among teachers – but that is true of the entire population, including other professionals. So if one signs this contract and gets a DUI, a divorce, or happens to live with their significant other, does that make them liable for disciplinary action or firing?

Apparently, we are supposed to maintain a professional relationship with staff, parents, and the community, yet didn’t a school board member – when negotiating during our contract – leak some pertinent (and incorrect) information to our newspaper? Also, does this cover taking professional criticism personally? That is rampant at the high school from the top to the bottom.

The policy ends with me agreeing (via my signature) that I am an important part of a team whose mission is to educate all students to their maximum potential. Now I ask you, what is my job again? I assume – and am I the only one? – that doing just that falls under the definition of teaching? And didn’t I do exactly that last week when I received an email from a parent whose student passed my Comp 9 class but failed the writing test. Apparently, the student has been scheduled to retake Comp 9 – just because she failed the test, yet – as far as I am aware – this has never been policy. Instead, I met with the parent and counselor and department head to devise a remedy – which includes me working with the student a month prior to the test. Or spending hundreds of my own dollars each year on books to make me a better teacher and professional? Or developing relationships with kids so that their faces light up when I see them and they tell me they are in one of my classes? Or becoming president (well, co-president) of the EA and a member of the LEEP committee so I can have a greater stake in what is actually going on in our union and school?

I am walking the walk. So why do I have to sign the conduct policy? And I most certainly am not alone in what I do with kids at our school. So why should anyone sign the contract?

Is it just a generic statement to appease the public because we will be asking for more money via a levy in another year?

And aren’t we neglecting someone in this process? How about having the parents and students sign a code of conduct policy? Yes, it’s my job to teach them regardless what goes on at home. But I sure am more successful when parents don’t excuse their kids from class for such things as tanning appointments or hair cuts or to sleep in after a sporting event. I sure am more successful when a parent comes in to meet me at our open house or conferences than have zero contact. I sure am more successful when a student has been given a roof over their head, rules to follow, and enough food to eat.

And what ever happened to the Prowler Process where - as the title suggests - one goes through a process in solving a problem or working on an issue? But I have come to learn over the past four years that the Prowler Process is really only used when you don't want something really done about something - cell phone issue, attendance woes, detention policy - where you get so bogged down in the process - often referred to as "having dialogue" that nothing ever really gets done. But when one really wants something done - just chuck the process and go over everyone's head to get it done.

Stay tuned.


Minnesotalady said...

Wow.. I can't believe I didn't read this before... I must have just focused on your Kenzie news... Good for you. I'm sure that was very difficult for you. I'm proud of you. It's funny that you think your so passive but in actuality you always seem to stand up for the high road.

Minnesotalady said...

damn... I hate it when I go back and read my comments and see I've written your instead of you're. Where's the red pen when you need it.