The covid-19 pandemic was the breaking point for Trent with the teachers’ union. While in the past he was frustrated with the national and state unions, as well as with union leadership, he’d stuck with the union because he respected a majority of his fellow union members. But this year, he said, the teachers’ union went too far.
Trent lives in a district that has offered in-person learning to every student five days a week since the beginning of the school year. The district also offered remote learning for students who could not or did not want to attend in-person. But Trent said the teachers’ union went along with the in-person plan “kicking and screaming.”
The union fought for students to attend half-days on Fridays so teachers could learn to use the new technology required for online learning. Trent said the first two or three half-days were useful for teachers to catch up, but 20 weeks in students were still attending half-days on Fridays, even though teachers are now familiar with the technology. The union sent out a survey asking members if they should fight to stick with half-days on Friday, and Trent was one of a few teachers who said students should be in school for the full day on Fridays. Another survey went out, and just over half of those who responded said they wanted the union to push the district to switch to full-time virtual learning.
Trent found himself at odds with the other members of his union.
“I think teachers should be in the classroom. We know the negative effects of online learning academically and socially on our district’s children, and if you are actively trying to push for more online learning then you are actively working against students’ interests. That was the beginning of the end for me,” he said. “If you are a teacher and you are putting your fears before students’ academic and social health, then I can’t be in the same organization as you.”