Get Ready…Get Set…Get… Disorganized?

No one would suggest that you start the new school year out lacking organization. But what does it mean when someone tells you, “You need to organize.”? When you hear that phrase, does it make you scream; or put you to sleep? Have you heard it over and over again, but still you question its meaning?

Are you getting tired of being blamed for all of the problems in public education? Are you fed up with educators being held accountable at every level and for every aspect of test scores, but no other stakeholders are being criticized for their part of the responsibility? Are you getting sick of the attacks on unions, too?

How do we make the public aware of the challenges of public school today? How do tell our stories and get them out into everyday conversations? How do we gather support from each other? What does organizing accomplish, how can you benefit, and what does it look like when you get there?

Your colleagues share those frustrations, which have been sorely exacerbated by the current economy. We need to work together to find solutions that take care of all the above concerns.

So what happens next? What can be done about those frustrations, and who does it?

Organize –

1. arrange into a structured whole; order

2. coordinate the activities of (a person or group of people) efficiently

3. form (a number of people) into a labor union, political group, etc.

4. arrange or form into a living being or tissue

5. make arrangements or preparations for (an event or activity); coordinate

take responsibility for providing or arranging

Perhaps the first step is to reflect on the contributions of labor unions. Union values stem from a disdain for elitism, and the belief that democracy and opportunity should exist for all. People are not tired of having weekends off. They do not want to give up medical benefits or pensions. They do not want to work for low wages. In fact – people want what we all want; and it’s time to credit the hard fought battles that labor has waged throughout history, and claim victory for what most Americans still strive for. It is time to quit talking about how awful things are, and to fight back! So much energy and time gets lost from complaining. You cannot have a middle class without a labor union. So, let’s stop apologizing, and move on.

We need to talk to each other about how to accomplish this ‘take back our profession’ effort. In the short term, it seems difficult, and surely, it’s time consuming. But in the long term, we will know to whom we can turn for support, and if each person handles one small task, it becomes much easier down the road. When we have closer relationships with each other, then tapping into the talent also becomes smoother. If our locals can return to engaging the members, it will be much more effective, too, in the long run, than playing the “Ain’t it awful?” game, which ends up taking us nowhere.

We all know people that are strong in curriculum. Others are strong advocates for students and employees. Still others dabble in political discussions, are willing to attend school board meetings, or write letters to newspaper editors. When we know each other better, we find that we know more about people’s strong suits. We can get to know each other through having one on one conversations, an important part of organizing. That is how we will tap into our passions and talents to overcome the attacks when they arrive.

Having one on one conversations with one another will take time, but far less time than complaining, and will energize us far more than our usual end-of-the- day exhaustion. It will set us up well in strategizing for the future. This movement called organizing has been around for a very long time. Our adversaries use it well against us, and it is time to use it ourselves to advantage our education goals to make public education the best it can be for ourselves and for our students.

When we have a clear idea of who we are, we can define ourselves more clearly. We know we are educators: the “good guys” and not test givers. We can define ourselves because we know who we are and what our work is. Defining ourselves/ telling our stories, moves us along the road to taking back the crucial work of what educating students is, and should be. It is our work and our role to define.

There is much more to this work called organizing. It is a very powerful tool that can be used to put into action powerful ideals. There will be opportunities for everyone to learn more and get involved - stay tuned.