Saturday, March 12, 2011

#5 Be Passionate

Before you read on, I need to warn you.  I'm NOT going to talk about sex.  I'm no expert, but I think unless you're all hung-up on religious doctrine, you can figure that one out for yourselves.

I'm talking about passion in my life, in my interests, in my ideals.  Reading the headlines lately, I've become worried that I'm turning into my dad (rest his feisty soul):  yelling at the tv, getting worked up about the events going on in my town, the nation, the world.  But I had an epiphany - that kind of stuff can be useful.  It can lead you to action - not in the "throw stuff at the tv" action (although if I see Charlie Sheen on the "news" one more time, I might be tempted), but in the kind of action that might actually get something done.

I am a Union Member.  I have done plenty of grousing on my own about my union; I think there are plenty of ways to make my union work better for everyone involved.  But do I vote?  Attend meetings?  Nope.  I haven't.  I'm always too busy.  And I feel like the very people I get disgusted at the union for "protecting" are the people who attend those meetings.  All complete conjecture on my part, having never attended one.  So, I'm adding "attend a union meeting" to my list.

I work at an elementary school, as an aide to kids with special communication needs.  Most are on the Autism spectrum.  Most are non-verbal.  They have to work really, really hard to communicate what they want.  I don't take for granted that I am able to just open my mouth and say something to tell you how I feel.  Or organize my thoughts (well, as organized as I get) to say what's on my mind.  It is a truly rewarding job, but it has become increasingly difficult due to budget cuts in our District.  I administer lessons, working with small groups all day at reading.  There is not a teacher at the table on most of the days, because one is out on maternity leave, the other is pregnant, and running two classrooms, managing staff, putting together IEP's, earning the "big money".  (note to any teachers who might read this:  I am joking, I hope you know.  I am on your side here.)  This year we paras were told that we could no longer call for a sub if we are sick.  Which means, that if I am out, one of my hardpressed co-workers or the teacher is going to have to try to do their job AND mine.  Or they will bring someone in from another school that happens to have a kiddo or two out.  This was pretty demoralizing, but we've adapted, and they managed to squeeze more blood out of us.  But the stress level in the room has gone up, and I'm sure the kids can feel it, because it's pretty hard to hide it when you're feeling so much pressure to do everything.  The capper though, was  when I got an email asking if I would like to be a trainer for other paras.  I would go through a training of trainers, for which they would pay my miles, my hotel, but not for my time.  Nor would they pay me for working the many weekends giving said trainings to other paras.  So, if I don't mind working for nothing, it's a perfect gig.  Ummmmm, no thanks.  By they way: I got this offer from my union.  So yeah, my union has been trying to "get along" with the budget cuts, cutting services to workers, and pimping us out for free work, but the GOP still seems to think we're living large.

With all their faults, I believe unions are valuable.  Those of us in the bottom of the boats, rowing the upper class to bigger bonuses need to have a voice.  One person's chance of being heard by the uphigh muckitymucks is mighty slim, but together?  It's really our only chance.  Lately, I feel like most of the country is Whoville, and Horton is nowhere in sight.  So I'm throwing my voice in, to yell it louder, to feel - if nothing else - that I'm not feeling pissed off all by myself.