Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Common Ground. We need to get back to that mentality. Or maybe, we need to find it. Perhaps the ideas that were instilled in me about how to live a rewarding life only existed in the hopes and dreams of the adults surrounding me in my youth.
You remember the lessons, right?
• Turn the other cheek.
• Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
• Give back tenfold what you've been given.
• Be there for others.
• And the ultimate All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulgum.

We should all reconnect with these simple life guidelines and stop trying to beat each other down. Specifically, I'm upset with the the fact that the gulf between rich and poor is increasing. And I'm sad that there is a notion that certain groups of people are not sacrificing as much as they "should" be during these belt-tightening times.

Police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers, etc. These are people who chose a profession that by their very nature requires sacrifice. But they chose it anyway. And not only are they being accused of not sacrificing enough, they're being made to feel that they are the cause of many states' financial crises. It's insulting and hurtful. And it's simply not true.

My husband and I are both teachers. We have never complained about our salaries. We feel well-compensated in our respective districts. But I do not believe we are overly compensated for the work that we do. Not by any stretch of the imagination. (We believe educators in less fortunate districts are tragically under-compensated.) Our salaries, which are so publicly displayed on the internet, include the cost of our benefits and pensions. And we won't get social security. Ever. We both have advanced degrees, which we paid for. Together, we have worked 14-20 hour days for a total of 39 years.

I am all for "everyone pitching in" during economic decline. We have felt the effects. My daughter's school district cut dozens of teachers. Multiple academic, athletic and fine arts programs have been lost. And class sizes are huge. My husband and I know what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck these days. We, too, are paying more for gas, energy, food, etc. We are taking a HUGE hit on the sale of our home. And our taxes went up this year.

When I walk into my school, the only thing on my mind is, "How can I make a positive impact on those I cross paths with today? What can I give?" And I believe that this is true for the vast majority of educators I work with. We are all working together to determine what is in the best interest of the children we serve.

If collective bargaining is lost, there will be a tragic mental shift that takes place in our schools. Teachers will be required to think about themselves first and students second. Teachers will need to compete, rather than collaborate, with each other. Teachers will be spending time thinking about how they can serve the master, rather than serve the students. Students will be required to produce even more than they are already. (And a similar negative shift will occur in these other lines of work.)

The worst part about this is that removing collective bargaining rights won't fix the financial crisis that exists. It is a power move, plain and simple. And one that will ultimately hurt all of us. Not just public employees.

Many hard-working public and private sector workers need help right now. As do our children. Let's think of the common ground that unites us. Let's be more creative and work together on a realistic solution to the economic crisis we're experiencing, rather than going after each other.