We should be proud. We should feel lucky. As a younger teacher, it is difficult for me to not be optimistic. I can feel the wheels of progress turning, and I feel excited by what lies ahead. After speaking with veteran teachers at my site, I have heard a common theme, “It feels different this time.”
We all knew something had to be done. So many of our teachers were burning out, noticing that many of our students were just treading water. We were feeling the crunch of standardized testing, fully aware of the gaps in knowledge and skills it produces in our students. We also knew that this was not a fair way to evaluate how “good” a teacher is. A checklist did not suffice either.
Negotiating is never easy. Compromise is never perfect. But our bargaining team has done something very few others have: they have worked with the district in innovative ways for the betterment of our students and us as professional educators.
My students had to learn this skill as well. While working in groups to present their community projects on Latino Literature, my students had to work closely with one another for an extended period of time. They had to work through frustrations and anger. They had to learn to be good communicators. They had to learn how to work together to assemble a product of which they could be proud. And yes, some of the students do not think their projects were perfect or what they would have done individually. But they learned something that I believe is more valuable than any test: how to work together toward a common goal.
One of those students asked me to write a letter of recommendation for her. After I had written it and given it to her, she asked my why I had written all of these nice things. She said she didn’t think many of them were true. I told her that all my letter of recommendation did was hold up a mirror so she could see herself. My goal was for her to see what I see in her.
Much in the same way, our contract is a reflection of us. That reflection now being broadcast to the media. It highlights what is best about us as professionals. It challenges us to seek new, challenging positions. It creates more equity in our profession. It involves more educators in more areas of the profession. It builds a framework for future discussions and ideas that keep us at the vanguard of changing lives through public education.
We should be proud. We should feel lucky.