Can we teach all electives and no “subjects”?

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I know that this is a concept that will be shut down by “education professionals” nationwide, and I have neglected to show my support for the idea until I have been able to support the idea more thoroughly. However, I must begin talking about it with this article about Finland to stop teaching “subjects” and start teaching “topics.”

Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union – which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.

There are other changes too, not least to the traditional format that sees rows of pupils sitting passively in front of their teacher, listening to lessons or waiting to be questioned. Instead there will be a more collaborative approach, with pupils working in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills.

How archaic is it to teach “English” “Social Studies” “Math” and “Science”? The new common core standards allow for much collaboration between skills and topics. Teachers are already working together on teams to collaborate their lessons.

Not only does it make sense to teach “electives” instead of “core subjects” it will be more engaging, interesting and fun for students!!!!

Why is Model UN or Model Legislature only an after school activity? Can’t that incorporate history, writing, public speaking, group work….etc. In college I had a class called Model UN and we used law texts and literally created a UN in our classroom week after week. Why wouldn’t that make sense as a K-12 class?

Why not an astronomy class? Or Gardening class? Or any other number of science explorations that would be fun, instead of dull science class trying to teach you everything in 4 classes. You can learn math and science topics and writing and possibly some history all in one fun “elective” style class.

The best part is, you can even intermingle grade levels. If one room school houses can teach all grade levels, then you can have different levels in your elective style class and have the older students do harder work and younger ones the easier work and they can even teach each other.

I learned so much more in my elective history classes where instead of reading the text book, we read biographical novels. Psychology class, current events – were all more interesting. We need to start incorporating business education into classes – so let’s do math and history and writing in that too.

I’ll bet you teachers would be more excited about teaching these electives all day and not teaching to a text book.

“There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s – but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century.”

The reforms reflect growing calls in the UK – not least from the Confederation of British Industry and Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt – for education to  promote character, resilience and communication skills, rather than just pushing children through “exam factories”.

We should be focused on teaching and developing skills, not drilling subject matter.

Teachers were naturally a but resistant because all they know is what they have done all their lives.

Even in Finland, the reforms have met objections from teachers and heads – many of whom have spent their lives focusing on a particular subject only to be told to change their approach.

Ms Kyllonen has been advocating a “co-teaching” approach to lesson planning, with input from more than one subject specialist. Teachers who embrace this new system can receive a small top-up in salary.

About 70 per cent of the city’s high school teachers have now been trained in adopting the new approach, according to Mr Silander.

“We have really changed the mindset,” he said. “It is quite difficult to get teachers to start and take the first step… but teachers who have taken to the new approach say they can’t go back.”



You believe every lie your union tells you, don’t you?

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© Paynich

I’ve been talking about the new right to work law in Michigan and the fall out from it in these two posts:

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rights

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

I just can’t believe the lies every time I read an article on this issue.

With the teachers given a 31-day window in August to decide, representatives for the state’s largest public-sector union are imploring them to stay or risk losing their clout in how schools are operated.

“If I don’t stand up and stay in my union, then we don’t have a voice,” said Chandra Madafferi, a high school health teacher and president of a 400-member local in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

Hmmm, OK. Lets read these two posts again:


Unions do what they want, without majority of teacher input

And, how about this one?

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

And tell me again what “voice” teachers are giving up by cancelling their union membership and keeping an extra $1,000 for themselves? They didn’t even have a voice to begin with, so how can they give it up?

A significant number of dropouts would deliver a financial blow to labor in a state where it has been historically dominant. Previously, employees in union-covered jobs were required to pay fees for bargaining and other services even if they didn’t want to belong.

“There is a lot at stake,” said Lee Adler, a lawyer who teaches labor issues at Cornell University and represents firefighters’ unions in New York. Public-sector unions, he said, “don’t have a history of being able to do massive recruitment of members who will voluntarily pay dues.”

Ah yes. It’s not actually about giving teachers a voice, it’s about….union dues! What I love the most about the this law is that it doesn’t allow the “collective bargaining fee” that non union members were required to pay previously, which was suspiciously similar to the actual amount of dues for a member.

Bingo – the reason I want teachers to pay the dues independently. If recruitment is much harder with voluntary dues, then maybe the union will actually have to change in ways that will attract teachers for the right reasons. Unions have been spending taxpayer dollars at will for too long!

With contracts covering roughly three-quarters of the 1,100 school workers’ bargaining units expiring, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity bought a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press with a form that teachers could send to their union to drop out. A free-market think tank has mailed reminder postcards about the Aug. 31 deadline.

“We are making sure that every eligible member who wants out of the union has the ability to do so,” said Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center, which has worked in the Legislature to limit collective bargaining and promote charter schools.

Union officials charge that the group’s “desperate” campaign is aimed at union busting, not worker freedom.

“This is an organization bent on the destruction of not just this union but frankly of the public education system we all believe in,” said Doug Pratt, the state education association’s director of member and political engagement.

So while some groups are helping to provide information to help union members make their own decision (because remember the union was not educating their members adequately about the 31 day exit period) which actually does equate to worker freedom – MEA says the group is destroying public education as we see it.

I’m sorry first of all, they are simply informing teachers of their rights (something the union fails to do, but claims to protect teachers) which has nothing to do with destroying public education.

You know what is destroying public education? The MEA disenfranchising 8,000 teachers for forcing them to pay dues that the state already decided aren’t required. What has MEA done lately to improve public education. Alot of Nothing!

In Novi, Madafferi, 40, said she’s worried that some younger teachers won’t see the value of union membership. She said she has worked to explain the problem with “freeloading,” or benefiting from union negotiations without paying dues. Members pay up to $640 annually to the state union and $182 to the National Education Association, along with local dues.

As I said in this post, “A free-rider problem? Because workers benefit from the union’s contract negotiations and don’t have to pay. Someone PLEASE enlighten me about how the “collective bargaining fee” is calculated. If you are negotiating on behalf of 100 or 10,000 teachers do you really do more work? Free-rider problem, what a bunch of absolute baloney!”

Novi special education teacher Susan Bank, 60, said she plans to save the money, having gone several years without a raise.

“What am I getting for the over $1,000 in union dues I’m paying?” Bank said. “Now that we have the new law, the rules of the game have changed.”

Labor experts say Michigan unions will have to find other ways to demonstrate their value even though they still have collective bargaining power. In neighboring Wisconsin, more than one-third of teachers dropped their union membership after a 2011 law effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees. But in right-to-work Alabama, nearly 80 percent of teachers voluntarily belong to the union and pay dues, said Adler.

Exactly. Unions in Michigan will have to demonstrate their value, just like any other benefit. The article notes that in right-to-work state Alabama, nearly 80% of teachers voluntarily pay their dues. Maybe MI needs to visit AL. I would say union presence is better in right-to-work states where the organizers actually have to work to get members voluntarily, instead of tax payers handing over cash directly to the union for doing very little work.

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

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In my last post, I discussed the new Michigan right to work law.

By March of 2014, a year after the law went into effect, we have some news. Remember the teachers who filed lawsuits over the timing of their request to leave the union?

As a result, the Mackinac Center, a free market think tank in Michigan, filed a lawsuit against the MEA for attempting to force teachers to stay in the union and to continue to pay dues against their will.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed the union informed the teachers named in the lawsuit that they were no longer members and back dues were no longer being sought.

Those suits were settled in the plaintiff’s favor, but in the words of the article:

“There is nothing unique about the situations of Ms. Chanski and Mr. Arthur, yet the MEA insists on treating some 8,000 other teachers differently by threatening to ruin their credit by turning them over to a collections agency,” Wright said. “We think the MEA should comply fully with Michigan law and realize that teachers are able to make up their own minds about whether or not they see a benefit to being in the union.”

The MEA admitted last Wednesday during a hearing at MERC that it has created a policy to go after about 8,000 teachers who so far have refused to pay dues in cash or give the union credit card or bank account information as part of its “e-dues” scheme. A federal appeals court rejected the MEA’s attempts last year to block a state law prohibiting school districts from deducting union dues as a payroll function.

“What public school employees who are still under a union contract have to ask themselves is what is different here,” Wright said. “They should ask themselves why the MEA was willing to let these two people go, but appear perfectly willing to stick it to anyone else who attempts to exercise their worker freedom rights.”

MEA admitted that 1,500 teachers correctly followed the process of declining union membership and dues in the 31 day window in August. However, another 8,000 have refused to pay cash or give over credit or debit card info to have the union enforce dues payment that was just made legal to refuse to pay. They have devised a plan to to “go after” 8,000 teachers – I’m sorry, this is supposed to be a teachers union, that protects teachers? And they are attempting to impact 8,000 credit scores for what? To forcibly collect dues that the state has declared teachers don’t have to pay?

Do you see what I mean now when I tell you that unions say one thing and mean yet another? This proves yet again that unions are only in this business to collect dues (they have to pay their national talking heads 500K a year after all) and not about protecting teachers and definitely not about kids.

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rights


As I mentioned in this recent post, I’ve been promoting the idea that teachers should pay for union dues independently of the auto withdrawal from their paychecks. One twitter commentator mentioned that in Michigan this is happening! I started reading to see what how it has been unfolding.

Late in December 2012, Michigan State Legislature passed a law lifting the requirement for workers to pay union dues and the requirement to join the union.

As I watched the video clip above, a union worker states that she feels the law is taking away their rights. Their rights to what exactly? They may still join. They may still pay their dues. They may still have a union. The union may still collectively bargain. You know what does change? The automatic flow of cash from taxpayers to unions, circumventing the workers choices. From what I read in this piece about how teachers don’t have a voice in their unions, and my post on the issue, I’d say this new law provides and opportunity for the union to go back and listen to the other members and create better policy. This new laws gives more rights, the right to keep your money and not join a union.

Some teachers are already suing the union over their behavior towards this new law:

Their complaint alleges the union is violating the intent of the right-to-work law by only giving them a very brief period — the month of August — to drop their membership.

One of the eight, Coopersville teacher Miriam Chanski, told MEA in a May letter she was leaving the union. MEA denied her request because it was sent in too early.

She claims the union did not tell her this at the time. She only learned of the August opt-out window in September. That was when MEA informed her she would now have to pay another year’s dues.

“It surprised me that there would be more to the process — I had not heard anything else,” she told the local ABC affiliate.

It got worse for her when MEA said that if she didn’t continue to pay, they would report her to a collection agency, which would negatively affect her credit rating.

“My credit is very personal to me and it’s something I take pride in,” Chanski said.

Let’s keep in mind – the union is claiming that the new law is taking away workers rights…while the union is literally

  • Giving folks a 31 day window to leave the union
  • Denied a teacher who submitted her request to leave the union in May, which was too early. Then they did not inform her that she submitted her letter too early, until it was already September, claiming she owes another year’s dues.
  • AND, even though she tried to cancel her membership and the union failed to give her proper follow-up, if she doesn’t pay the dues, they will report her to a credit reporting agency which could have an impact on her credit score

WAIT A MINUTE!! Who is this union working for? Not this teacher. Not any teacher that doesn’t agree with the union. This sounds more like a cult, than a group that is supposed to be protecting teachers.

Last week, Linda Evon, a Pickney special needs classroom assistant, also filed an unfair labor practice complaint against MEA. She said she tried to quit the union Sept. 4, only to be told the deadline had passed on Aug. 31.

Amazingly, this was the response when asked for a comment from the MEA:

A spokesman for MEA did not respond to the Washington Examiner‘s request for comment

Of course not! They aren’t going to publicly disclose that they are trying to preserve union cash over teacher’s own rights. This is an embarrassment to the time when unions were actually needed. But they have transformed into protecting workers in a time when laws were not in place to protect workers to a time when all they care about it collecting union cash.

And they have the nerve to make this complaint:

Big Labor hates right-to-work laws because they typically mean fewer members and therefore less dues revenue. Union leaders complain that they cause what economists call a “free rider” problem, since workers still get the benefits of union contract negotiations. Nothing prevents unions from negotiating “members-only” contracts though. They’d just rather have the additional dues coming in.

A free-rider problem? Because workers benefit from the union’s contract negotiations and don’t have to pay. Someone PLEASE enlighten me about how the “collective bargaining fee” is calculated. If you are negotiating on behalf of 100 or 10,000 teachers do you really do more work? Free-rider problem, what a bunch of absolute baloney!

Of course, with the impending law, many unions rushed to negotiate contracts with a 10 year security clause, locking in the automated union dues. Hello what? The union just negotiated it’s own salary for the next ten years?!!? Teachers in the city of Taylor in MI filed suit to eliminate the 10-year security clause and won.

Unions do what they want, without majority of teacher input

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In my last post I talked about how teachers should pay the union dues directly, so they can have more control over the actions of their union and because I think it’s veering on an illegal use of taxpayer monies.

I also think that unions would have to pay more attention to their teachers if they had to actually collect the monies. You might be surprised to think that teacher’s don’t have much say in their union. Isn’t it there to protect teachers and represent them? I’m not entirely sure which teachers unions are representing, but its not the majority of teachers.

I can tell you from my own experience as a student in my public schools that the teacher who were younger, more innovative and wanted to make change were easily rebuffed by union officials. So much so that they are scared to go against the union. Scared to speak up? Oh and by the way, the same people you are scared to speak up against, are taking your money for union dues without any say from you.

Now that I think about it, it’s like taxpayers who are scared or unmotivated to approached their legislators about how their own tax money is being spent.

Bottom line, these people are taking your money, more or less without your say so and then are spending it on who knows what.

When I was an intern during my school counseling program, I worked for a counselor who was retiring the next year. She was in a group of teachers who all sat together at lunch and literally gossiped about everyone and made lots of off handed comments about their retirement, their workload, making everything seem like a big sham. They were in it for them first and it at all, the kids second.

Dmitri Mehlhorn has a great piece called: Why Teachers Have No Voice. He makes some very compelling points.

He talks about how his mom was a teacher and when she became a union rep, saw that while she was trying to adovcate for student achievement to be the union’s goal, it was really about job protection and salaries. He says his mom retired early and still worries about ineffective teachers.

A close look shows that many teachers believe in parent engagement and choice. When the chips are down – in other words, when it comes to their own children – public school teachers are twice as likely as other parents to send their kids to private schools. When I had an ineffective teacher as a child, my mom pinched pennies to put me into a private school for a few years. Teachers do this for reasons eloquently explained by Ray Salazar, a Chicago Public Schools teacher who wrote about his choices for his own children and why public education should offer more choices for all parents.

More than anyone else, fellow teachers know how other teachers teach. The most disturbing thing for my as a school counselor intern was that no matter how much time I spend working with a student, I still have to sent him back to the 5/6 ineffective teachers. There is nothing I can do to help him overcome that. And it feels like all the work I do unravels as soon as he walks out the door. I suspect that is why teachers often make choices other than public school for their kids, because while a parent may fight the system to get what their child needs, a teacher knows the fight could be futile, or even detrimental to their own job.

Three quarters of all teachers and an even higher percentage of highly recognized teachers believe it needs to be easier to dismiss ineffective teachers. Unfortunately, teachers feel that they have no voice outside their classrooms.

It is still excruciatingly difficult to dismiss ineffective teachers, while 3/4 of teachers believe it should be easier.

Dmitri’s mom is not the only one to realize that unions aren’t what we need them to be:

My mom’s experience, however, alerted me to the sincerity of those who have concluded that reform unionism is a mirage. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who concluded that teachers’ unions have been an “unwavering road block to reform,” started his career as a teachers’ union organizer. Civil rights leader Howard Fuller traveled a similar path: starting his career as a public sector union organizer, but eventually concluding that the unions prioritized political power over student interests.

I, myself, used to be vehemently for teachers, no questions asked. I assumed, naturally, that the teachers deserved the contracts they asked for because teachers are the foundation of our society. I blindly supported teachers until I started to perform more research. Now I see the evidence everywhere.

Union leaders tend to be unrepresentative. A 2005 survey of membership and leadership by the National Education Association found that only 15 percent of teachers are actively involved with the union.

If unions are going to useful in a positive way, they need to embrace more of their membership. And I think they should get to know all of them better by requiring them to pay the dues out of pocket instead of automatically through their paycheck.


Teachers should pay union dues out-of-pocket

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I’ve been excited about this issue ever since I saw this blog post from a fellow blogger: Union Says Gov. Martinez Committed An “Act Of War” Over Dues. The Governor of New Mexico simply suggested that teachers union dues should not be automatically deducted from teacher pay checks. If teachers want to be part of the union, they can choose to pay to dues themselves.

I support this notion because it seems to me like an illegal or legal but extremely unethical practice where something like this occurs:

Union and LEA agree on an amount of dues in the contract.

Union and LEA agree that the LEA will deduct the dues from teacher paychecks and automatically pay it to the unions.

This seems like the LEA is paying the union to negotiate the contract with the LEA.

While, in theory, members can opt out, generally speaking teachers have zero control over the union dues. Even when membership was not chosen, there was a mandatory CBA fee – of which was mostly the same as the membership fee. How in the world do the unions calculate the CBA fee? Seems like a huge scam to me.

“You don’t want to be a member, its ok, we’ll just charge you most of the dues as a mandatory fee, that you have to pay simply because we negotiated a contract for you, whether you wanted us to or not.”

I wonder if the teachers unions would spend more time paying attention to the wishes of all its teachers if they had to collect the dues from each and every member. In fact, maybe they would spend more of their time collecting dues and less time creating abusive campaigns against education progress.

The union is not the government. The only monies automatically collected from pay checks go to the government. Every other entity on the planet has to collect monies on their own, and unions should not get the unfair advantage of ease of payment.

I see it as taxpayer dollars going directly into the hands of unions with little or no say or control from the teachers unions are supposed to be protecting.

Michelle Obama, I don’t want any bad schools!

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In this last post I discuss how Democrats are cavalier about students and their education, and here we have Michelle Obama confirming that sentiment – to an extent.

Huffington Post, via the AP reported that last Friday, Michelle Obama  called education the “single most important” civil rights issue facing the country and pleaded with young people to make going to school a priority, even if all they have is a “bad school.”

As part of a speech at the White House honoring Black History Month, the First Lady stressed the importance of staying in school, especially when so many have fought to allow attendance.

“And today, thanks to their sacrifice, there are no angry mobs gathering outside our schools,” she said. “Nobody needs a military escort to get to class, but that doesn’t mean that our children don’t still face struggles when it comes to education.”

Mrs. Obama, who attributes her own success to education and heads an initiative that encourages young people to pursue post-secondary education, said too many students still attend dilapidated schools or schools that lack the latest technology or the college prep classes and college counseling they need.

Students fall behind in life when they fall behind in school, she said.

“So, like many of you, I believe that education is the single most important civil rights issue that we face today,” the first lady said.

She said education will help solve issues like mass incarceration, racial profiling, voting rights “and the kinds of challenges that shocked so many of us over the past year,” an apparent reference to police-involved killings of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island in New York City.

The first lady urged the young people in the audience to “translate the victories that these women won into habits in your own lives.”

“That means going to class every day. Every day. No matter what obstacle life may throw your way, go to school,” she said. “Go to the bad school that you have. Go to school.”

I agree that education is a civil rights issue of our time. And I agree that students shouldn’t go to no school at all, if all you can do is attend the “bad school.”

But I really don’t like that statement. I understand her point is that you should go to school no matter what…but I feel like in some ways it ignores or excuses the bad schools. I would have liked some more language in there about how we’re working to fix them or to seek out alternatives if you have a bad school, but still go to school. Its the same thing as a legislator telling their constituent, “Yes I know your school isn’t performing well, but there is nothing we can do about it right now.” A little more compassion would have been appreciated. I was also not at the speech, perhaps she did speak more about it?