Friday, January 17, 2014

Work to Rule Begins January 21st

Work to Rule Begins Tuesday:  To show our commitment to earning a fair, competitive contract settlement, we ask all AHEM members to begin working to rule this Tuesday, January 21st.  Work to Rule is where we only do those things for which we are compensated and withhold the extra duties we take on voluntarily.  One reason this action is effective is that our school board understands how difficult it is for educators to pull back. When we are facing offers that trail well behind other districts' settlements and an attempt to reduce our health insurance benefits, we need to take a strong stand.

Work to Rule Can Look Different from Teacher to Teacher: Remember that Work to Rule can look different for teachers who are on extra service agreements that require time outside the duty day, special education teachers who risk losing their teaching licenses if they don't fulfill paperwork requirements, athletic coaches, and a number of other special assignments. If you have questions about Work to Rule, please email us at

Learning From Work to Rule: Let's use this time to examine our teaching through the lens of sustainable, productive workloads. Note what you set aside and what you choose to keep in terms of your instructional practices. The last time we Worked to Rule, I used this action like a kind of professional development activity. The result was I focused my practice on the most effective activities and improved my overall performance. I added time with my family that improved my overall mental health. You don't have to go as far as writing a blog like I did ( - be kind, it was an early writing attempt), but pay attention to the changes you make and the effects they have on your work.

Thank You for Taking a Stand: As the negotiations team prepares for our first mediation session this coming Wednesday, January 22; we want to thank you for all you are doing to help achieve a fair, competitive settlement. That kind of effort makes a big difference at the table – the more unified we are, the more power we have to bring about a good result. Even beyond this goal, your efforts will improve  education as a whole. Pulling away obstacles like oppressive workloads helps us all focus on what matters most to our students and that is good for our entire profession.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mediation, Work to Rule, School Cancellation Question

Mediation Session Scheduled: As you read in the update email just before break, we have filed for mediation.  That means we will use Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) support to facilitate our negotiations sessions.  We are scheduled to meet all day January 22nd.  The BMS' policy is to close those sessions to the public, but we will still give you as many details as possible after each session.

Work to Rule (W2R): AHEM leaders have decided to go to a district wide Work to Rule on Tuesday, January 21st. Our goal is to demonstrate our resolve to win a fair, competitive settlement. This is where we walk in together at the beginning of our duty day and leave at the end without taking work home. We stick to our contractual obligations – those things for which we are required and compensated to do. Watch your mailbox for more details next week.

Talking About Work to Rule (W2R):
We don't use our duty time to discuss union issues with parents or students, so how do we explain changes during Work to Rule? Instead of talking about W2R or our contract, think of the conversation as one about setting boundaries and maintaining focus on the most important parts of our work.  This way, we not only keep the appropriate line between work and activism, but we can also improve our workload.  For instance, if a parent asks you to do extra work with a student, you could reply with "I have time from (the start of your duty day) to (when classes start), what day works for you?" You can say no professionally and simply, like "I have other commitments after school, so I won't be able to attend that event." You can describe the realities of your work, for example, "I have 20 other requests for letters of recommendation right now, it will take about three weeks before I'll be able to complete yours." These kinds of statements would be appropriate whether you are working to rule or simply need to reclaim a healthy work/life balance.

Work Out Event Cancelled Due to Lost Days: Given the shortened amount of time between returning after break and next Wednesday, our Executive Board decided to cancel next week's event and hold the idea for a future date. We'll use the time to focus on being ready for W2R on January 21st.

Good Question: Why didn't we have to come in when school was cancelled? Our contract states that teachers do not come in when school is cancelled and can't be docked for missing those days (page 6). The work of colleagues before us to win that item in bargaining is the main reason we were not called in Monday and Tuesday. (Thanks to Oakview's Doug Jones for suggesting this question.)