Whose interest?

Andrew of From the TFA Trenches and a fellow Teach for America teacher volunteered to teach from 7:30 am to 3:50 pm, so their fifth graders would have time for silent reading, daily PE, art and music, in addition to the standard curriculum. The principal offered to pay an extra $12,000 for the extended day. The union president said no.

Our union president, whose salary we each pay with almost $1,000 a year in union dues, told us that extended day “proposals” were on hold while the union dedicates its whole effort to contract talks this year.

. . . As we were discussing the process, our union president looked us straight in the eyes and said, “After all, it’s in no one’s best interest if you just work for free.”

She saw the shock register on my face when she said that and looked quite embarassed.

Andrew wonders how a teacher could forget about teachers’ interest in helping students and students’ interest in learning.

Update: This New York Times’ column by Samuel Freedman describes Rudy Crew’s school reforms in Miami. In addition to bringing in a phonics-based reading curriculum and diagnostic testing, Crew offers veteran teachers a 20 percent bonus to work 20 percent more hours at high-need schools. Some work a lot more than that.

(First grade teacher Kennetha Jones) had been up since 4:45 in the morning, and already had done a math review session for 40 pupils who volunteered to come to school by 7 a.m., 90 minutes before the official class day began. Over the course of the week, she also would serve as the mentor to a less-experienced colleague, observing and critiquing a reading lesson before delivering a model version of it herself. She generally headed back home at 8:30 p.m.

“When you come to a school like this, you have to come with your heart,” Mrs. Jones said during a brief break. “For so many of these children, you’re the only stability they have. As soon as you can show them you care about them, about their learning, they come to you like sponges. For me, it’s about more than the money.”

She likes a challenge. And, apparently, she doesn’t need much sleep.

About Joanne


  1. Whenever I read anything in the New York Times I always try to divine the part of the story that simply doesn’t make it into print, the part of the story that the readers don’t need to be burdened with. So….

    Under a new program devised with the teachers’ union, Dr. Crew was offering 20 percent more pay for 20 percent more hours for all teachers willing to work in the 39 most-troubled schools in the county, the ones he had designated as the “School Improvement Zone.” He liked to describe the plan as “an internal Peace Corps.”

    I’d be interested to know what impelled the union to deviate so far from standard union practice. Something local to the local? The hovering presence of the NCLB? A riot at the last school board or PTA meeting? Since there’s no direct benefit to the union and since special pay for special service undercuts the bargaining process, why do it?