Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day 17: Divided we fall

"United we stand, divided we fall"

Well I'm pretty sure that I got my official "lay off" notice today. I had a sorry we missed you note from the post office waiting for me when I arrived home. I was less upset than I thought I would be. I suppose I have come to terms with this whole being laid off thing.  I still feel somewhat unmotivated to make the drive to the post office tomorrow after work and wait in a long line just to pick up a nicely worded letter from LAUSD stating that they really mean it this time I'm fired.  Despite all this, the union and district are still in "talks" to negotiate ways to save jobs. They are taking their sweet time, and as each day passes I am feeling more and more like it is time to start looking for work, but I love my job so I don't want to. I don't want any of my colleagues to lose their jobs and would be willing to make all kinds of concessions to ensure the opportunity to return to work for my colleagues. I hope that other teachers in the district and around the state fell the same way.

I know this is a difficult financial time for many (not the oil companies, GE, or Hedge fund managers, they're doing just fine). For us regular working folks this is the time it is especially important to stand together and support each other as working people who rely on their jobs for their livelihoods.  It is easy to want to say no to furlough days or pay cuts.  I understand that. We all want to make our full salary, but shouldn't people be willing to share the sacrifice? I guess I don't necessarily expect that from all workers, but from teachers I do. I expect commitment to the profession and the needs of the children and that means maintaining class sizes, services, and not dramatically decreasing the size of the teaching force.

Here I am trying to be all polite and erudite, but tonight this is the part I really need to say. I am feeling hurt, disappointed, and angry that some of my colleagues in LAUSD are expressing disinterest in accepting furlough days that would be tantamount to saving the jobs of most of the teachers and support staff that have been laid off. I wish we could all stand together. I wish my colleagues felt like I was important enough to fight and sacrifice for. I am obviously invested in this issue, but I can honestly say in past years when my job has been less threatened I have be willing and eager to take any necessary steps to help save the jobs of my colleagues. Teachers should be willing to help teachers and I find it incredibly frustrating if some teachers with more seniority than I want to stand up to these furlough days because in their minds they are currently unaffected by the layoffs. It is exactly this type of divide that will ultimately weaken the position of the teachers and give more negotiating power to the district. We need to be united. We need to support each other. We need to defend our colleagues.

To the many colleagues of mine who are willing to share the sacrifice I say thank you. Thank you for your support through this difficult time, thank you for putting the future of our educational system before your own personal needs, and thank you for looking out for the best interest of our students.

For the teachers who feel like they are unwilling to share the sacrifice and accept furlough days in order to say jobs I say be careful. There is a large population of young, highly trained, highly effective, energetic, and passionate teachers who are tired of being laid off year after year and a lot of legislators that want to dismantle seniority based  firing. Many of us less senior teachers currently support seniority based layoffs out of respect for our colleagues with more seniority. However, if teachers turn on us less senior teachers and leave us fending for ourselves by not being willing to negotiate than I guarantee my support of seniority based layoffs will be gone. I am not alone. I will fight tooth and nail to have the current system abolished and move strictly to a system based on achievement, education, credentials, training, and classroom success. I am a great teacher as are many of my colleagues who were also laid off. I whole-heartedly support my colleagues and would do anything to support them, but if I feel like some more senior teachers do not feel that same way, if they cannot be there for those of us struggling through this difficult time of uncertainty than I simply say again. Be warned.  I will not go down without a fight. I will teach somehow, somewhere, even if it means changing the system in order to do it.  I ask for your support now because I respect you, I would support you, and I would hate to have to come after your job.