As we celebrate CTA’s sesquicentennial, what are we learning about ourselves?
“But you’re a girl!”
“You’re a boy. Now that we’ve clarified that, let’s talk about what’s important for educators and our public schools.”
That’s a conversation Carolyn Doggett had with Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle shortly after she became CTA’s first female executive director in 1995.
Carolyn Doggett is the real deal. As executive director, Carolyn helped achieve CTA’s historic election victory in 2005 over several harmful initiatives, the enactment of the Quality Education Investment Act in 2006 to help schools of greatest need, and the passage of Proposition 30 in November.
She is retiring this summer after an amazing career of teaching, advocacy and learning. A fourth-generation Californian and a fourth-generation teacher, Carolyn began her 45-year career teaching first grade in Willits, California, before moving to Anchorage, Alaska, to teach high school English.
Can you imagine? When Carolyn was elected president of the Anchorage Education Association, the headline in the Anchorage newspaper read: “Teachers Elect Woman.” She was president of NEA-Alaska before coming back to CTA. She’s been a caring teacher, an outspoken education activist, a feminist and a union organizer since day one. She will be missed.
Honoring our past, guiding the future
This month, CTA turns 150 years old. You’ve probably seen and heard the creative TV and radio spots or seen the newspaper ads. We’ll be celebrating our heritage for the next several months. We are honoring the past and guiding the future because people like Carolyn and me and you, who worked to improve teaching and learning conditions, to enhance teaching and the profession, fought for professional salaries and benefits so we could be full-time educators.
And members like you are guiding CTA into the future. You’ve heard about the strategic planning process we’re engaged in now. It seems appropriate to do this during our sesquicentennial, to review and renew our work to support California public education. Even after our legislative victories, there are so many things coming at us at once — Common Core and its implementation, the worry around getting the support we need for teachers, the governor’s budget proposal, all the policy attacks, and the corporate attacks on collective bargaining and our evaluation process.
If we approach these issues in the short term, if we simply “circle the wagons” and fight, we will never get out this cycle. It behooves us to take a critical look at ourselves, a thorough examination of our organization, to determine how we might be better prepared and, at the same time, how we might engage our members more thoughtfully.
As part of this process, members like you were surveyed online, in face-to-face focus groups and at meetings and conferences throughout the state. You talked and were heard. You, our members, want your union to reclaim and transform the profession, to change the narrative about the craft and the art of teaching. We’ve lost a share of the narrative as corporate reformers attempt to change the teacher into a technician, into a one-job-fits-all type of profession. Where’s the “profession” in that kind of thinking?
Members want CTA to tell a different story. And we’re doing that here, in this magazine, and in all the TV, radio and newspaper advertisements you’re seeing this month.
People are rooted in their communities, and educators are rooted in their communities, as well. Our local chapters are well suited to helping build connections between our members and the community, as well as helping them connect to their state association. It’s a powerful connection, and CTA, at the state level, is learning from local leaders.
People feel a desperate need for CTA to take charge of things related to our profession and public schools. As educators, we want to feel successful, be better at what we do, and have a reliable measure of our practice. If we wait this out and let someone else come up with those measures, we’re going to get run over.
But if we take charge and lead, if we use our voices and tell our truths, we really do have a chance to change the landscape, to reshape and reframe the narrative.
I learned our organization is more resilient than I anticipated. We’re more open to thinking outside the box, to changing things that aren’t necessarily in everyone’s best interest. I expected more of a tug of war with folks who want to hold on to the old way of doing things. But I saw, and I see, a willingness to seriously engage, be better than we are, and make the necessary changes.
Renewing our mission, our spirit, our dedication to public education and our craft — I can’t think of a better way to celebrate CTA’s 150 years, to honor the amazing work of educators like Carolyn, and to give our members renewed opportunities to continue improving our profession through our teachers union. Please join us.