Sunday, January 28, 2018

Why the push to end collective bargaining for higher education faculty?

When I first heard that South Dakota Representative Mark Mickelson was going to bring a bill to the legislature to end collective bargaining at SD public universities, I was struck by two statements in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader article

It says, “He said professors weren't willing enough to teach courses on weekends or weeknights due to terms of their contracts, prompting his frustration.”  Were the faculty unwilling to teach on weekends or weeknights or did they tell him that he couldn’t force them to teach on weeknights and weekends? I view those as two different situations.  I also noticed that it said they “weren’t willing enough,” which, to me, means that it wasn’t their first choice.  As a faculty member, it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice either.  However, I can tell Mr. Mickelson that there are LOTS of faculty who WORK on weeknights and weekends already, even if they aren’t teaching classes at those times.

The other statement in the article that bothered me was “Something needs to change, these people need to be shaken up a little bit," Mickelson said.  What have “these people” (faculty) done that needs shaking up?  Is it because we don’t really want to teach on weeknights or weekends?

Neither of the reasons expressed by Mickelson in the article are legitimate concerns to end collective bargaining.  We have a hard enough time recruiting faculty to South Dakota, we don’t need a lack of collective bargaining to be another barrier to faculty recruitment and retention.

When I heard that Governor Dennis Daugaard was supportive of Mickelson’s bill, I was not completely surprised. What did surprise me was the following statement in the Associated Press article, “Daugaard, a Republican, says he worries that unionization in some cases has made it difficult for administrators to retain certain employees and discipline others who need it.” How would unionization make it difficult to retain employees?  Did Daugaard misspeak and mean to say that it has “made it difficult to fire certain employees”?

It seems to me that both SD Republican politicians that support HB 1199 have yet to give legitimate reasons why this bill is necessary.  For once, I would like SD legislators to focus on real issues that concern the citizens of SD:  funding for education, increasing state revenue, and diversifying state industries.

Friday, April 14, 2017

What I LOVE About My Job!

Often times when I tweet, I use the hashtag #ILoveMyJob. And the fact of the matter is that I really do love my job. In the last 3 weeks, my thirteen-year-old asked if I liked my job. I responded that I LOVE my job and I look forward to going to work every day.  I thought it would be good for me to make a list of reasons why I love my job.
  • Building relationships with my students. Each semester I get to meet a new group of students in 1 or 2 of my classes; also, I get to have some of my students in classes 2 or 3 semesters in a row. In both cases, I get to know my students on a more personal level. Some are more willing to share their interests with me than others, but for the most part, I can tell you something non-academic about each of my students.  In addition, they get to know me on a different level; I frequently share stories about my kids and experiences from my teaching life or my personal life.  For me, this is the best part of my job. Even better is when my relationship with my students goes beyond the semester, through graduation, and into their career. 
  • Seeing students succeed.  Some students feel like their teachers are out to get them. I truly hope that my students don’t feel like that. Students that had me 20 years ago may disagree, but I have evolved in my teaching A LOT.  There really is no better feeling for a teacher than seeing a student work hard and succeed in your course. I think that is the one thing that all of our alumni say when they talk about teaching—they love it when a lightbulb turns on for a student.  I think it is because when a student succeeds, we feel like we have succeeded! This perk continues well beyond my students’ time in my classroom—when they graduate, get their first job, and grow in their career.
  • Sharing my love of math. When I went to college, I was not a math major, but I have always loved math. It makes sense (most of the time) and there is always an answer to the problem. During Calc 3, I finally decided that math was the major for me, but that I was NEVER going to teach it. I still tell my students to “never say never.” I started teaching as a TA for College Algebra; I am fairly certain that I didn’t do a good job that semester or even the next semester. However, at some point, I fell in love with teaching because I could share my love of math!  These feelings continue to this day—I still love math and I love to share the cool things about it with my students. Yes, most days I seem a little crazy and look like a dork, but it is me—and my students will likely all agree that I am always real with them!
  • Growing as a teacher.  Since I have the privilege of teaching pre-service math teachers, we talk about teaching in all of our classes. My students always share their wisdom, great ideas, and ways to make the class better. I love listening to their thoughts and talking with them about teaching.  I always tell them that “if you think that you are done growing as a teacher, you should probably retire.”  They help me grow and improve as a teacher—and they keep me young. At least, that is what I keep telling myself!

I am a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason.” My path to my current position was not direct—there were forks in the road and twists in the path.  But, ultimately, I found my way to a job I love, teaching students that I love, and working with people that I love—nothing gets better than this!