Why Opt Out? — One Teacher’s Story

Editor’s note: Lauren is a 2nd grade teacher. We asked her why she decided to opt out of her teacher’s union. Here is her story.

It’s Monday morning and my alarm goes off at 4:55am to start another week. I’m already exhausted. I quickly get ready, grab my lunch, and throw my bags in the car. First stop is my part-time job – for supplemental income. This is a different kind of class. This class is at a fitness studio where the students come to exercise and sweat. Once I kick their butt, it’s time to go get mine kicked.

I get to my classroom by 7:45am and continue the work I didn’t get done yesterday. Finalizing lesson plans, making copies, grading papers, answering emails, checking in with the other grade level teachers, setting up technology, organizing activity bins, etc. I’m scrambling to get it all done before the bell rings at 8:55am. Just before the kids come in I have a parent knocking at the door, I know exactly what she wants because I’ve already responded in an email. Apparently that wasn’t enough. The bell rings and my heart rate picks up, the chaotic beauty of the day is beginning.

As each kid walks through the door I give them a big smile and a fist bump – 32 times. I have 32 2nd graders who depend on me to love them, educate them, and celebrate them. We share what we did over the weekend and I laugh, feel proud, and get them excited for a day full of learning. I love these kids! We move on to math and language arts. Small group learning relies on independent work for the others – we’ll keep practicing.

Halfway through the day and it’s lunch time. My lunch consists of answering more emails, (3rd communication with the parent from this morning), *take a bite*, set up for our afternoon activities, *take a bite*, run to the copy room to cut letters for the hallway bulletin board, *drink water*, and before I ever sit down the kids are back. There’s drama with a group of girls so everyone else reads while I help them navigate their feelings.

The afternoon has several “ah-hah” moments — and this is the reminder I need that I’m in the right place, making a difference. While the kids are at their music special I prep for the student council meeting I host the next morning. It’s the end of the day and I give 32 hugs before heading out my door to bus duty. I run back to my classroom so I can host “homework club”, another extra job to make a little more money. The last kid is picked up by 5:15pm. I tidy up and get out what I’ll need to do it all over tomorrow. I’m home by 7:00pm to answer more emails *take a bite*, grade papers, *take a bite*, and check that Instagram page with creative activities that will take me all weekend to make *take a sip of wine*.

On Friday, I get my paycheck of about $1,100. A yearly salary of $36,000 to get my butt kicked every day.

Why I Chose to Opt Out

Think about this: not paying union dues could save you up to $1,000 each year. That’s like getting an extra paycheck! Choosing to leave your union is a personal decision, and it may not be the right choice for everyone. If you want to learn more about opting out, here are some resources you may find helpful.