Oftentimes we get complaints that someone is doing more work than someone else. We believe that, as much as possible, that there should be equity between people who are being asked to do the same thing. For instance, if two teachers at the high school teach the same classes, it seems patently wrong and hurtful to students, if one has twice the number of students as the other. If duties are assigned in a building there should be an equitable rotation schedule. When members are asked to attend conferences and training, it makes sense to send different people at each opportunity.
If there is an instance where something along these lines is inequitable, then our first responsibility is to bring it to the attention of whoever makes the decisions. If there is no change, there is sometimes a basis for a formal grievance or administration union concern. None of these remedies ensures that the problem will go away, but we believe it is best for everyone if no one feels that favorites are being played in a building.
Leaves of all sorts – who is responsible for the classroom, etc
We have several different types of leaves in our contract. If your leave is for the whole year there will be someone in your position and everything about the job will not be your responsibility for the year. If you are out for part of a year, then this may not be the case. If you have a licensed sub in your position for several weeks, they need to be responsible for the day to day operations of the position. You cannot be expected to make daily lesson plans, grade papers, and other tasks if you are on such a leave. Most people who are on a leave are busy doing something else, like having a baby or recuperating from an illness – you should not be expected to do IEP’s, lesson plans or any other part of the job.
Many people who are on planned leaves will try to leave directions to a substitute about what should be taught in their absence, but the day to day planning has to be done by the substitute to make it real as it is very hard to stick to someone else’s plans. It is inappropriate for a teacher to get called when they are out on leave to provide services – it is a leave, which means you are not available.
My Principal is calling me to a meeting
Meetings happen all the time, but when you are called to a meeting with the principal the purpose of the meeting should be very clear. In fact, in section 37.0 of our contract it states that if your principal calls you in for a disciplinary meeting you need informed about four things.
- The reason for the meeting – this is where you figure out if it is disciplinary or fact-finding or something else unrelated.
- Time and date of the meeting.
- Topic of the meeting – this needs to be specific, not just “concerns over attendance.” It should be something like “consistently absent for Mondays and Fridays for the entire semester” (which may or may not be justified).
- The right to a representative from the Union.
If a meeting with a principal or supervisor is disciplinary there should be a union representative with you. This should be a steward or officer, but it should be someone to help represent your interests and to ensure that procedures are being followed correctly. You need to meet or talk with the rep ahead of time and let him/her know everything they need to help represent you. Holding something back that comes up at the meeting will probably hurt you.
Disciplinary meetings can have different aftermaths. Sometimes no follow up is needed. Sometimes there may be another meeting where either a verbal or written letter of reprimand is given. Written letters go in your file. It is possible to for administration to decide to place a member on a paid administrative leave. It is possible for administration to move toward termination. There are other disciplinary options available to help as well.
Parents in the classroom
Many teachers make use of parent volunteers in their classrooms. This is an encouraged practice, although there is a district procedure in place so that the district is aware of who is in the school working with children that needs to be followed.
Sometimes parents want to visit a classroom. There is a district form for such visits and procedures in place mandating that visits need to be scheduled in advance. In the past. parent visits to classrooms required teacher permission. We are not completely sure what the case is now. It is in everyone’s best interest if teachers cooperate with this type of request, in most cases. If a parent wishes to visit a classroom more than once or twice there should be a very good reason given why this is necessary since it is an interruption and distraction to the learning process. In these cases, there may need to be union involvement if the principal/supervisor does not head off any problem.
I have a problem with another member
Since we work with so many people, there are occasions where we have problems with each other. These issues are so diverse and individual it is difficult to give advice without specific information. Although, in general, it is important to know that you can only file a grievance against an administrator for a contract violation or unfair issue with work conditions, not a colleague.
Also, we act professionally, try to work through issues, and realize that there are always two sides to any story. The best thing is to usually go right to wherever the source of the problem may be and try to solve it as soon as possible. The worst situations between members that we have seen is where a rumor goes around and no one tries to figure out if it is true or if it was intentional.
Sometimes a union rep or other person in your building can help mediate. Once administration gets involved with our internal disputes it can only make it worse for everyone.