Public education in Maine and around the country is changing. It’s not happening as quickly as some might like nor as some might lead us to believe, but schools, classrooms and teaching itself are certainly different today than a decade ago.
Reforming public education is a complex and difficult subject. This blog will be just one more in a rapidly expanding list trying to get a handle on it. My union background, though, gives me a unique perspective on the challenges faced by public educators and policy makers.
I was employed by the Maine Education Association for over 14 years as a UniServ Director based in the Caribou office. As a union representative, I was involved in the collective bargaining side of public education. I also assisted local Associations and individual members with workplace problems. What I learned from that experience is the basis for some of my views of education – public, private and otherwise.
Other viewpoints are grounded in my experiences as a grade 5 – 8 teacher; as the wife of a special education now middle school teacher; as an instructor at Husson College and Northern Maine Technical College (when it still was); as a parent of two now-grown children; as the grandparent of 3; and as a law school graduate.
I often read (almost all of my interaction with others who care and/or comment about public education reform is virtual) that politicians (and others) want teachers to be involved in the school improvement process. Whether or not they truly mean this, I don’t know, but if they do then there’s an important obstacle to be overcome, at least here in Maine.
It is common knowledge that teachers (via their local Association, also known as their union) have a lot of power through their contracts to affect education. That common knowledge is wrong.
What we hear and read about other states’ teachers’ unions and their hundred-page contracts with language regarding class sizes, teacher transfers to better positions, evaluation protocols and other high-priority education reform topics do not apply to Maine. My first priority for this blog is to help explain why the common knowledge is wrong and what might be done to improve the situation.