This week’s episode of the Teacher Voice podcast is the follow-up special edition featuring the other slate of officer candidates for leadership of the Florida Education Association. Joanne McCall, Lawrence “Lare” Allen, and Luke Flynt are running for President, Vice President, and Secretary-Treasurer respectively. As with the previous podcast, the candidates share their histories and why they are running, their vision for the future of FEA, as well as why teachers and ESPs should join their locals. Please listen and share with others, especially those who will be delegates at the FEA DA next month.
If you’d like to learn more about Joanne, Lare, and Luke, you can visit their website, and follow/interact with Joanne (@joannefea), Lare (@LareAllen83), and Luke (@laflynt) on Twitter.
This edition of the Teacher Voice podcast features three guests that comprise one of the election tickets running to become the leaders of the Florida Education Association. Fed Ingram, Andrew Spar, and Carole Gauronskas are running to be the President, Vice President, and Secretary-Treasurer respectively. We sat down earlier this summer at the AFT Convention for them to share why they are running, their vision for the future of the FEA, and why teachers and ESPs should join their local unions. Please listen and share with others, especially those who will be delegates at the FEA DA next month.
If you live in the Tampa Bay area–and perhaps anywhere in Florida–the man above needs no introduction. Ernest Hooper has been sharing his thoughts with readers for many years, always concluding with his characteristic “that’s all I’m saying.”
I have had the honor of knowing Ernest for about a year now, and how our relationship started and since blossomed is nothing short of serendipitous. We first met through a chance introduction at a local coffee shop last fall. We shook hands, I told him that I was a fan, and we parted ways. But life seems to find ways for us to keep crossing paths and building on our friendship.
This past March, Ernest was the keynote speaker at an Alliance for Public Schools event showcasing increasing graduation rates in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. He spoke eloquently about how he started as a journalist because one of his teachers encouraged him to join the school newspaper after reading his sports stories. Before he left, I reintroduced myself, complimented him on his speech, and told him a little bit about the Teacher Voice blog and podcast.
After exchanging emails a few times, he asked me to take part in his Sunday Conversation piece, and I eagerly agreed. We met at a local restaurant and, although the actual interview only lasted 30 minutes, we talked for well over two hours about public education, the Florida Legislature, the coming elections, and just about everything in between. I walked away even more impressed with Ernest. Our wide ranging conversation revealed him to be an extraordinarily inquisitive, insightful, intelligent and humble human being.
Before we entered the ballroom, Ernest asked me if I had a notepad. I left everything in my car so he supplied me with the long type that journalists often carry, and he officially “deputized” me as a journalist. Ostensibly, he was there to write an upcoming column about which candidates for the Florida Legislature would take the FEA pledge to fight for raising teacher salaries to the national average by 2023; Ernest had a vested interest in this story, though, because his son Ethan had started his teaching career in Orlando county the day before.
We were men on a mission.
For over two hours, I was Ernest’s wingman as we walked the room, shaking hands, asking questions, and listening to answers. I kept a tab of who would take the pledge and who would not, but I will leave that for Ernest to tell you about when his column is published on Friday, August 24th. Regardless of their political affiliations, most of the candidates wanted to support public education and were very cordial.
Most, but not all.
Easily the most salient interaction I witnessed involved one in which a candidate said more with what was not said. Ernest approached the candidate, asked about the pledge, and the candidate in question did not know what the national average for teacher salaries is (just shy of $60K), what the average salary is for Florida’s teachers (a little under $48K), or that our state ranks 45th in teacher salaries when compared to the U.S. Instead, Ernest was rebuffed twice: the first time over having to pay for the table to be at the event and that the candidate had to talk to people who could offer support via their vote (Ernest and I were the only ones talking to this candidate); the second time, only a moment later, when the candidate’s aide clearly ushered someone over to take our place. We were dismissed with a “call me for an interview.”
As a Social Studies teacher and active citizen, this was the most shameful, disheartening display from a potential public official. Regardless of whether or not Ernest and I (or anyone for that matter) live in this candidate’s district, this person potentially represents Hillsborough County and all of us. To see a fellow citizen turned away with a dismissive “just a journalist” attitude is the wrong tact to take for any candidate or elected official.
We pressed on.
I had to take my leave from Ernest before I really wanted to, but I needed to get home. I thanked him for the opportunity, and kept the radio off on my drive home to reflect on our time together. While meeting the candidates and networking with future legislators was indeed fun, the biggest takeaway from the experience was simply spending more time with Ernest and learning from his gracious nature. He introduced me each time as his friend first, then as a teacher. He encouraged me to give cards away for Teacher Voice. He invited me into the discussion often, allowing me to share my expertise with the candidates, both in terms of my personal experience as a classroom teacher and as informed public education advocate.
If you don’t know Ernest, I hope that you are fortunate enough to one day meet the man behind the column. He’s quick with a smile, has a great laugh, an affable nature, and is genuinely listening to what others have to say. Just walking around the room for those two hours and talking to him in between candidates was about the best way I could have spent my Tuesday afternoon.
This week’s guest on the latest Teacher Voice podcast is FEA President Joanne McCall. I reached out to Joanne on Twitter to invite her on the podcast, especially considering so many teachers across Florida have been wondering what our next steps should be in light of the wave of teacher activism that has been sweeping through many other right to work states. Though she did not mention a possible #RallyInTally, she shares some of the other FEA ideas such as the “Me Plus Three” campaign and what other locals can do to increase membership and activism as we move toward this year’s election season.
Thanks for listening, everyone. Please be sure to share with other concerned education professionals and public education advocates!
P.S. – I tried my best to eliminate the background noise of the landline I called, but it may still be noticeable at times.
The latest Teacher Voice podcast is an interview of the two candidates who are running to replace the current HCTA president, Jean Clements, who is stepping down due to her retirement. I sat down to get each of the candidates platforms and perspectives, and each of them were given the five main questions ahead of time (although I did ask a bonus question that neither of them were expecting). Both were also told that they would have up to two minutes to answer each question to ensure both had the same amount of time to get their messages across. If you’d like to learn more about Rob or Val, please click their names above and these links will take you directly to their respective campaign websites.
While this podcast is primarily for the HCTA members, the candidates and I wanted to publish this for all to hear. For non-member employees, we hope you consider joining us; not only will you be able to cast your vote for one of the two candidates, but you will be banding together in solidarity with teachers and ESPs from all over Hillsborough and across the state of Florida. You can find out more information and join HCTA here. For those of you who are community partners and education advocates, this would the first glimpse of who the potential president of HCTA will be.
Thanks for listening, everyone. Please be sure to share with others and consider joining HCTA if you are not already a member!
Teaching is an incredibly rewarding career, but it’s also an incredibly challenging one. And one daunting challenge stands above them all—time constraints.
Two weeks ago, educators throughout Hillsborough County Public Schools banded together to “work to contract.” As I noted during my reflections on WTC the following weekend, the most salient aspect was just how much time we spend outside of the classroom to prepare ourselves so that we can be the best possible teachers for our kids. While most of us undoubtedly have a vague idea that we spend a great deal of time on our jobs outside the 8-hour workday, I don’t think many of us truly realized exactly how much we go above and beyond until we found ourselves feeling less stressed and enjoying much more free time with our family and friends.
To be completely honest, after working the contract for a week, I don’t ever want to go back to not doing so. But I also realize that is a completely unrealistic expectation to set for myself because there will be times when I absolutely must do things outside of school so that the students can be successful. At my school, for instance, I am both the Theory of Knowledge teacher and the Extended Essay coordinator for our International Baccalaureate program. I essentially have two jobs and due to the timelines my students and I race against, there are certain points at which I get completely backed up; if I didn’t take work home, I wouldn’t be able to give my kids timely feedback and keep us all on track for our mutual deadlines.
Regardless of what level we teach—whether elementary, middle, or high—we all face obstacles to finishing what amounts to an average 60 hour work week in 40 hours. I have done my best to streamline my time and tasks to maximize productivity, but it still cannot all be done at school. Whether planning lessons, grading papers, entering data into gradebooks or other systems, sending emails, making phone calls, communicating with parents or administrators, sponsoring clubs, volunteering after school, and on and on and on, we all work well beyond the contract, which is why we need to start an awareness campaign on social media: #BeyondTheContract
Here in Hillsborough County where contract negotiations have dragged on for six months at this point, education professionals realize we are all at a crucial juncture. Should we continue to work the contract to demonstrate how much we do outside of school at the risk of alienating students, parents, and the community? Or should we simply go back to the way things were and do far too much outside of school to the detriment of our personal lives?
The honest answer is both.
We need to find a middle ground, which is what #BeyondTheContract is all about. We should do our utmost to work to contract and be as productive as possible during our regular school day, but then take home work only when we absolutely must. And when we do, we should log how many hours we spent along with stating the activities we did for the betterment of our students or our personal pedagogical practice. When we do go above and beyond for our kids, let’s inform our communities and keep them in our corner, rallying around us as they have the last several months. Let’s show district administration and our elected officials how much we care about our kids and our profession. If we do this here in Hillsborough, perhaps other educators across the state will join in, and hopefully Florida teachers can initiate a trend that will sweep across the education profession throughout the entire United States.
Please share the concept of #BeyondTheContract with every educator you know, and let’s starting spreading the word on social media!
Here’s the pinned tweet on my Twitter profile:
And here’s a sample tweet I sent last weekend after reading/commenting on essays and typing up several letters of recommendation for some seniors:
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