UFT leaders like to play make believe by trying to give the impression that we are a union of professionals. A profession is controlled by the members. But in NYC the UFT has assisted Joel Klein in the process of de-professionalizing and de-skilling teachers, who have less control than ever over what goes on in their classrooms.
I never looked at teaching as a profession. Though we used to be able to make a lot more basic decisions in our classes, most of us had little or not say in the curriculum or the materials we could use. Until 1979 I still had a lot of freedom. But that year we got a new principal who was a testing freak (she figured that if the raised our scores drastically she could become a Superintendent). There went the remnants of our freedom. I fought the testing wars with her for the rest of my career but gave up the ghost by leaving the self-contained classroom to become a computer teacher for my last 10 years in the school. But ever there we had friction as she wanted me to use the lab for test prep instead of teaching word processing (who measures that?)
There is a direct correlation between the standards and accountability movement that the UFT has so supported since the early 80's and the disappearance of whatever element of professionalism we used to have.
Witness the initial imposition by Joel Klein of the Diana Lam so-called progressive education system modeled on Teachers College, a program that was the core of District 2 (most of lower Manhattan) and then District 15 (Park Slope and Sunset Park in Brooklyn.) I was in District 14 (Greenpoint/Williamsburg) where we had the opposite program, a more rigid method of teaching, which we also didn't have a say in either, but at least they left us alone - mostly. The methods used were brutal and many teachers who could not adapt quickly were attacked by administrators. Some teachers "adapted" by faking it.
If we were a union of professionals, we would have played a role in these basic decisions.
The other point of attack has been the use of instant teachers in the Teaching Fellow and Teach for America program, many of whom leave after their two year commitment. The attacks on career teachers, a basic tenet of a profession, were inherent in the acceptance of this approach.
Now, I'm not taking a position vis a vis these people entering teaching (it was the way I came in in 1967.) I think it takes at least 3 years to become a proficient teacher no matter how you come in, though people with some background in student teaching have less ground to cover. Instead of calling for a paid apprentice program which would professionalize teaching, the UFT has gone along with the instant teacher schemes. (The Teaching Fellows idea came from Harold Levy, Klein's predecessor.)
The UFT supported the elimination of 1000 teachers who did not pass the teaching test but who had taught for years and were rated Satisfactory for their teaching while supporting people who had no experience and 6 weeks of training, but who did pass the test. What does that tell you about how they view professionalism?
The UFT view of professionalism is as narrow as you could get:
More money for teachers (not a bad thing but in our case, tied to longer days and school years, which is easy - and given the tremendous amount of increased responsibilities heaped on teachers - money for blood.)
The other plank of professionalism is a seat at the table for union leaders.
As to fighting for the right of classroom teachers to control what they do on the job, nada.
The idea as to whether to put money into massive accountability schemes and ignore class size is made by politicians, not educators. the UFT has gone along all along, paying lip service to class size for three decades (you'll notice the million dollar campaigns with petitions, etc has disappeared from the UFT's lexicon.)
That the UFT tries to call this a Union of Professionals is a joke.
Their idea is to give the union leaders a seat at the table while the rank and file gain little. The UFT can only gain this seat at the table by agreeing to be partners in the so-called reform movement based on standards and accountability. We know that the latter means "blame the teacher."
The UFT/AFT has been part of the public relations mantra used by Klein and Rhee that teacher quality is the most important element.
The first time I heard Randi talk about teacher quality, I immediately emailed her that she was walking into a trap. (At that time I actually thought she might be well-intentioned - silly me.)
That is why unless power within the union is shifted from the top, teachers will be given the illusion they are professionals but treated as drones.
The union has played this role: not as a strong advocate for teachers but as an intermediary between the so-called political reformers and the rank and file teachers, selling them mayoral control, merit pay, getting them to sign on to one way accountability (we don't want to make excuses, do we?)
Thus, teachers should not view themselves as professionals but as much a part of the working class as construction workers and teamsters.
In these times, that is exactly the type of union leadership teachers need. The type that will say, "Take yur stinkin' accountability and yur phony test driven curriculum and bury them in yur black robes."
My point is proved by these droppings from the Little Red Book of UFT high school VP and blogger in residence, Leo Casey from a post on a listserve.
We have had rather substantive critiques of the school progress reports and on their over reliance on test scores, but we are also political realists who take stock of developments in the real political world, and not just our ideal positions
While some think that there should be no differentiation for pay among teachers other than seniority and educational credentials, we do not believe that there is some special merit in such an industrial, proletarian view of teaching, and are quite willing to support the development of a teaching profession that allows for the development of different roles with special expertise, and provide additional financial remuneration for them.
Leo loves to use words like "proletarian." Sorry Leo. Your policies have made teachers more part of the proletarian proletariat than ever. I have a lot more droppings from Leo to report on. You can read the entire raw thread from the arn listserve on Norms Notes. But watch where you step.