Twenty-two may not sound like an enormous class size, but in a remedial eighth-grade math class where some students are still struggling to understand multiplication, division, or fractions, the number is far too high for each student to get the help they need, says teacher Carre Potis. “It makes it difficult to do small group instruction, to check in with every student, every day, and to build the relationships that you need for teaching and learning.”
The science teacher down the hall from Potis has 35 students—in a laboratory class. “You can’t even move. You literally cannot maneuver around her classroom,” Potis says.
That’s why Potis and her colleagues are so excited about, and appreciative of, the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) new Class Size Counts campaign for smaller class sizes.
WEA knows state lawmakers must be held to their commitment to pay for smaller classes for Washington state’s students. As Potis, a third-year teacher and building representative, points out, “In the end, it’s our students who are suffering.”
Members of America’s largest education association benefit from strength in numbers to make a difference in their schools. Without the power of their Association behind them, Potis and her colleagues wouldn’t have been able to impact class size.
Starting at the National Education Association in Washington, D.C. and extending to state and local affiliates, the Association works to improve learning conditions for public school students. Membership rewards go far beyond the legal protections that some might consider the main benefit. Membership in the National Education Association provides help on the job, a ready-made professional network of support, and a powerful voice for educators who want the power to control what happens in their schools rather handing control over to lawmakers or corporations.
Starting on April 1, 2014, educators can sign up for early enrollment and receive free membership until the start of the new school year next fall.
The power of a collective voice that can impact the profession is why Jannette Patterson, a high school teacher in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana belongs to her local Association and why she encourages her colleagues to do the same. “Join to protect your future,” she says. “Things that are done now will affect you down the road, so you need to have a say.”
Educators can also benefit from having wage and benefit watchdogs on their side. An experienced Association staff helps educators sitting down at the bargaining table to fight for pay increases and benefits. They do research and plan public relations campaigns to make the public understand the importance of properly paying educators. There’s also training offered to help individual members sharpen their salary and benefits bargaining skills.
“I wanted to be a part of a professional organization that would have my back and best interest in times of need,” says Almetra Pierce, a special education teacher from Louisiana’s St. Mary Parish.
For help around the clock and on the spot, members can visit NEA’s Great Public Schools Network (www.gpsnetwork.org). It’s a free professional network for NEA members where they can collaborate with other members on professional issues, search for resources to enhance lessons plans and share ideas, read educational blogs and up-to-date educational news, share opinions, explore practical tools provided
There are lots of professional reasons educators are interested in early enrollment, but there are also some perks that help out in their personal lives. Insurance discounts, cheaper movie tickets, and coupons for stores like Target, Ann Taylor, and Best Buy are a few of the money saving offers from NEA Member Benefits (www.neamb.com).
However, most members agree that the best reason to join is that it demonstrates support for public education. Find out if your state offers early enrollment or ask your school’s NEA building representative how you can join.