Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reflections on the Two Years Since My Election as VEA President

The month of May seems to hold a lot of significant dates for me. Every college graduation--and I have been through a number of them--has occurred in the month of May. Also, in May of 2007, I moved into the beautiful town house that I now call home and started in earnest planning for the next goal that I had set for myself by that time. (I had decided some months earlier that I was going to run for President of the Virginia Education Association.)

Two years ago, around the middle of May (it might have been May 15th now that I think about it) I learned that I had won the election for President of the Virginia Education Association. Little did I know what I had really gotten myself into, but I have not regretted for one minute the decision that I made to step up and into that role. I believed then and I still believe--and certainly hope with all my heart--that I have something to offer while I am in this job.

I am writing a reflection at this point because having been elected two years ago, I am mid-way through the time that I will have to contribute to the well-being of the VEA. These last two years have certainly flown--and I suspect that the next two will fly by equally as fast. By this time in 2012, I will be preparing to hand the job to the next President of the VEA, and my time will be done.

So, I am taking this morning to consider what the past two years have presented to me individually and the VEA as a collective whole.

When I ran for the office, I used a slogan that included "Choice, Change, and Challenge." My use of the word "choice" reflected the fact that I was offering members a choice as to who their next president would be for the first time in 16 years. "Change" was part of the slogan because clearly, if I were chosen by the membership to be their president, I would represent something of a change from the current direction that the VEA had been going. And "challenge" was appropriate because I correctly saw even then the number of challenges facing our organization and our profession.

Little did I know, however, the scope, range, and depth of the challenges that would ultimately present themselves.

The challenges have at times seemed overwhelming. The economic challenges alone have been mind boggling, and without a doubt, our VEA members are bearing the brunt of this economic mess because they were already suffering from depressed salaries and abominable working conditions before the the fall of 2008.

Indeed, I have been offering commentary for a long time now about the situation facing professional educators, and unfortunately, that situation just gets worse month by month, year by year.

The situation seems pretty dire, I admit, and I am concerned about the immediate and long range impact on our students as we anticipate larger class sizes in the next two years--and perhaps beyond--and reduced resources at the very time when greater accountability in the classroom is the hue and cry of our political leaders and media pundits.

I keep reminding myself, however, that it is not just a truism that where there are challenges, there are also opportunities. I must remind myself of that when I get discouraged, and I must continue to urge my members and colleagues of that as well.

The good news is that my colleagues are some of the most resilient and determined people I know. If they weren't, they would have left the profession years ago. Indeed, many of their colleagues have. There are literally thousands of folks out there who by their own admission "tried teaching and couldn't cut it." Thousands more wanted to teach--and still do--but couldn't afford to raise their families on a teacher's salary and had to go into the private sector in order to make the kind of living their educational background warranted. And still thousands more are want-to-be teachers but see the lack of respect that teachers get and turn away from the prospect. After all, who wants to spend their career constantly feeling disrespected?

The folks who have stayed and are still staying are the resilient ones. They are the ones who know in their hearts the difference they are making in the lives of their students everyday and they have chosen to disregard and tune out a lot of the outside noise that would otherwise discourage them away.

Oh, not to say that my colleagues aren't discouraged, because they are and they have a right to be. But they haven't let that overshadow the commitment that they have made to their students, and they persevere in the face of the challenges that present themselves everyday in their classrooms, their schools, and their communities.

I am proud of that spirit of tenacity and perseverance. It is my intention to continue to be tenacious and persevering in my daily job on their behalf.

So, I have my work cut out for me for next two years, don't I?

Until next time.