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WHY TENURE?

By Jessica Shyu — July 28, 2008 3 min read
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“I’m unclear as to why the union president is coming to the union in the middle of negotiations and why the president of the union is negotiating away seniority and tenure,” said Jeff Canady, who teaches third grade at Emery Elementary in Northeast.
- Pay-Hike Plan for Teachers In D.C. Entails Probation

I just spent the past half hour reading comments on The Washington Post’s article from last Thursday on the chancellor’s proposal to relinquish seniority among teachers for the exchange of higher pay. After half an hour reading the mostly anti-proposal comments, I’m still confused as to why the heck elementary and secondary public school teachers demand seniority and tenure.

As an average employee (formerly of a public school, now of a non-profit hired at-will), I understand the desire for job security. But we’re employees. And just like any other business out there, I’m hired to perform and demonstrate student results through my teachers. If I’m not getting results or showing any effort of making it happen, then yes, I probably do deserve to lose my job. Narrowing the achievement gap-- especially in a district like DC-- takes every second we have. Why waste it.

A recurring comment I read on the Post article was that principals may hold grudges against hard-working, results-driven teachers, play favorites and fire people at will. My immediate mental response to that was that a) if your principal is so irrational and petty, it’s probably a good thing to get away from the noodle brain, and b) once released, if you’re a veteran teacher who truly is so hard-working and high-achieving, I can give you the names and phone numbers of half a dozen principals down the street who would want to hire you right now-- because, let’s be honest, there is a huge need for great teachers.

My favorite response to this issue so far is by Special Education Teacher in Washington DC.

Is this a good thing that we are now expected to perform like the rest of the 21st century workforce, so that we can get our students ready for the global competition? Am I ready for this? Or am I one of the targets to be terminated at the end of this coming school year? I immediately did a self evaluation...looking back and looking ahead...thank goodness I have prepared myself for the required skills needed of a 21st century teacher. I never thought that during the process of keeping myself informed, involved, and innovative, I have also armed myself and safeguarded my job no matter what is happening around me.

As if giving me an intelligent advice, I saw this article on the homepage immediately when I turned on my computer: 5 Ways to Keep Your Career Moving Forward.

- Keep thinking positive. “When you tell yourself something bad will happen to your job, something bad will probably happen. If you tell yourself that you are marketable and confident and that you will always be working, your words can make this true.”

- Keep thinking ahead. “Look for trends and then train yourself in growth areas. Having the right skills at the right time ensures that no matter what is happening around you, you will be needed and employable.”

- Keep your resume ready. “Even if you are not looking for work, your resume reminds you of the contributions you make on a regular basis, something you can easily forget when you are immersed in the day-to-day. Whether you are looking for a job, or you already have one, an updated resume is essential for your career.”

- Keep cultivating your network. “If you start to network only when you need something, you will have a lot of catching up to do.”

- Keep your eyes and ears open. “Rather than thinking, ‘It cannot happen,’ believe that what you want is possible and is within your reach. Then, make it happen.”

The opinions expressed in New Terrain are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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