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Putting teachers' rights first

November 30, 2011

In Carol Cormaci's last column (Piece of Mind, 11/24), she solicited input from La Cañada teachers on many of the recent conversations about our public schools. Specifically, she suggested there may be a “culture of silence” permeating teachers' willingness to complain about our schools, alluding to a similar culture that this paper had reported existing among parents in our district. Cormaci likely isn't aware that this “silence” is not brought upon by a culture as much as by union decree. But she is not alone. I was not aware of the extent our union went to silence its members until very recently.

Just look at the La Cañada Teacher’s Association Union Code of Conduct to understand. It does not mention students at all. Here are the first three of five points:

I will not criticize any union colleague except to the individual directly.

If any union colleague is being criticized in my presence, I will confront the criticism and ask that it stop.

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I will not participate in any conversations with management that criticize, or negatively speculate about any union colleague.

About six years ago, while my son was in second grade, he was in a classroom in which his teacher arrived at school every day with no intention of teaching. I was desperate to supplement his education and chose to ask for help from the other second-grade teachers. One teacher, once she realized the name of my son’s teacher, couldn’t get rid of me fast enough and practically slammed the door in my face. I was stunned. I wondered where her compassion was. Just now, I am starting to realize that perhaps this teacher did have some compassion, but she felt stymied by the code of conduct.

What frustrates me most about the above code is that it eliminates the possibility of true collaboration or mentoring among teachers. Teachers that are limited in their communication cannot collaborate freely. This hurts our students. Any teacher mentoring program, restricted by the above code, will not work. If the mentoring teacher feels that the mentored teacher is not trying to improve, is not capable of improving or has not actually improved, the mentoring teacher cannot share this news with management.

The California Teachers Association recognized the needs and rights of the students, but the La Cañada Teachers Association puts the teachers’ rights first. I thought teaching was about the students.

Belinda Randolph

La Cañada Flintridge

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