Hundreds of Baltimore County teachers yesterday participated in a work-to-rule job action to demonstrate how much the system relies upon the time they put in beyond their contracted hours.
One teacher, Natalie Avallone of Patapsco High School, wrote an open letter to her fellow teachers about why she decided to work-to-rule. Here's her letter, which she has given us permission to share:
"Why I will work to rule.
What’s the point? It’s not like it will make any difference to lawmakers, right?
I’ve heard this opinion from my fellow peers too many times to count. The sad thing is that it’s true. Jim Smith isn’t going to care one way or the other if I walk in at 7:00 am, when I usually arrive, or 7:30 when I am contractually required to be here. No delegates or board of education members will be watching as I leave the building at 2:30 with a stack of papers still to grade on my desk.
But, I wouldn’t be writing this now if I thought working to rule was totally useless. In fact, I think it is essential that we commit ourselves to this symbolic gesture because it isn’t the lawmakers we are trying to educate. Sadly, the only lesson they seem to be interested in learning is how to get re-elected.
As teachers we are dedicated to the lives and education of our students. Who among us would truly jeopardize that in the name of money? We came to this profession because we are passionate about learning, not about the paycheck. We are willing to accept a sub-standard professional salary because we believe in what we do and that it makes a difference. Yet, we deserve better. It is not fair that children should have to pay the price for the fiscal woes of the education system or the government that funds it. Most of our students do not even have the ability to control what their teachers make, not having the franchise to elect officials that would better support our teachers and educational system. And maybe that is why schools, year after year, struggle financially through fundraising to support the “extras” like publishing the school paper or purchasing athletic uniforms.
So, if I can’t sway the lawmakers by working to rule, who exactly am I trying to influence, you may ask? The voters. Yes, it all comes back to democracy. And you can thank your 8th grade social studies teacher because you knew my answer already – didn’t you. When I walk in at 7:30 am on April 1st, I hope the community surrounding my school is watching because it is them that I am trying to educate. And if there are teachers walking in to every Baltimore County school at 7:30 am on April 1st it isn’t just the neighbors that will notice, but the media. The parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors of our students need to understand why we deserve a fair salary so that when they step into that election booth each November, America’s future is first and foremost in their minds.
I want the voters of Baltimore County to realize that despite that “seven hour contract day,” there are teacher’s cars parked in the lot long before 7:30 am and well after 2:30 pm, every day, and not just on week days. That even though our contract grants us a half an hour duty free lunch, most of us spend it with our students. That even though we work ten months of the year, school runs through the summer and many teachers must work in order to offset the fact that for two months we don’t get a paycheck. That even if I pull out of the lot at 3:30 pm on a typical day to pick up my daughter at daycare, I do so carrying a bag of papers I still have to grade. That even though I have nine years of experience, a Master’s degree and National Board Certification, I have chosen to remain in Baltimore County because I love my school and not my paycheck.
With the third highest turnover rate in the state, quality teachers are leaving this district for better pay and more respect. My hope is that our “students” are paying attention on April 1st, because it is the state of the Baltimore County School System that is on the line. And as a teacher in that system, I want it to be the best school system that it can possibly be.
That is why I will work to rule on April 1st and you should, too."
Anyone else care to share whether they are working-to-rule and why? Drop us a line here at InsideEd.