the principal founder of MACE, I think that I can speak with a little authority
about the mission of MACE. The Metro Association of Classroom Educators was founded to protect and empower classroom
educators. Period. Even as a young
teacher in the public schools of Georgia, I saw the disrespect and complete lack of
regard that many administrators had for teachers. This upset me greatly. In fact, it made me mad! I began my doctoral
program at UGA in Educational Administration at the age of 26 and was an administrator at a fairly large high school at 27.
I was always determined to respect teachers and to esteem them for the often
thankless job that they do. I came from a whole line of teachers and administrators
— and I can assure you that the Trotter administrators always supported the teachers. We
have always understood that you cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions. They are inextricably linked.
While in the doctoral program at UGA, I conducted a content analysis
study (two full years on the dissertation) of what teachers like and dislike about teaching. I
taught in several Georgia school systems and was an administrator in a
couple of Georgia school systems. At MACE, I think that we have a keener
understanding of the issues with which teachers grapple daily. These issues are
fundamentally the same wherever teachers are highly frustrated. Let me throw
these out there, OK?
Issue Number One: Angry
and abusive administrators. Teachers are so tired of the browbeating that
comes from top-down, heavy-handed administrators who often use the evaluative process in a punitive, retributive, and manipulative
manner to exercise control over the teacher or to set up the teacher for a corporate execution. Administrators these days
are so unhappy and miserable that I think they want company. Misery does indeed
like company. School systems are Corporations Writ Large, and, as such, the corporation
by-and-large promotes non-threatening kiss-ups. I’m sorry, but this is
the truth. There’s no real leadership in the schools these days. A person is not a leader just because someone designates that person as “the
leader.” If no one is happily following that “leader,” then
there is no leadership.
The Second Issue: Irate
and irresponsible parents. There is no on-the-job-training manual for parenting.
Many parents of today’s school children have abdicated their responsibilities
as parents. They apparently see their roles as “bouncers” against
little Johnny’s teachers if little Johnny’s teachers do not praise his brilliance in academe and his exemplary
comportment. These irate and irresponsible parents raise unholy heck in the schools
and scare the administration. MACE
understands this. MACE’s role
is to have the administration more concerned about MACE’s response than
little Johnny’s parents’ action.
This is one of the roles of the “little boycotts,” as
one anonymous critic calls the MACE pickets. If one of these irate and irresponsible
parents leveled outrageous, scandalous, and false charges against you, threatening your professional career, you would probably
want MACE to do one of its “impulsive” (to borrow from the same critic
again) pickets, right? But, we couldn’t
help you and save your career because if you are not a MACE member. You could call GAE or PAGE, but they may be too busy attending a budget hearing or taking legislators to
lunch. No, working a 12-hour shift in an emergency room is not as glamorous as
rubbing shoulders with the governor. Meanwhile, another dedicated but vulnerable
classroom educator falls victim to the unfounded charges of these irate and irresponsible parents who, because they know that
they have failed their children in child-rearing, are willing to believe any fanciful story that their children offer to them
as an excuse for their own failures in school.
This brings us to the last of the Silent Triad of Problems in the
Public Schools of Georgia (maybe I’ll write a book on this): Defiant and Disruptive
Students. Shhh. No one is supposed
to address this. No, the emperor is really not naked. Some students in Georgia
are doing splendidly. However, many other “students” attend the Georgia schools with no intention of learning. They bring no motivation to learn to school. The
educrats want to treat this as a technical breakdown. However, it is a motivational
breakdown. These educrats think that teachers need more training, they need to
be more “highly qualified,” they need more useless and inane staff development courses. No, this is not the problem. Teachers can be required to provide
written assessments on each student each week, be required to hold mandatory tutorials after school, be required to call the
parents daily, be required to send home weekly “progress” reports, be required to offer make-up sessions, etc.,
but as long as little Johnny is too lazy to even bring a book to class (not to mention a pencil and paper) and he insists
on sleeping in class, there is not a thing that little Johnny’s teacher can do to make him learn. He first has to WANT to learn. The teacher can teach little
Johnny, but he/she cannot learn little Johnny. That is even bad English.
At MACE, we do not pretend
to be all things to all people. We are not like Sears-Roebuck. We are more like
a Best Buy or a Radio Shack. We do not pretend to have 40,000 or 65,000 members.
(Of course, I worked on staff at GAE for six years, and I am aware of the “puffing”
game that takes place in the bragging about membership numbers.) We just protect
and empower each teacher one member at a time. We provide more personal service.
We return phone calls promptly. We
probably file more grievances on behalf of teachers than GAE and PAGE combined. The
people at GAE and PAGE are nice people. I do not have a problem with them. But, they simply do not want to admit that you have a built-in conflict-of-interest
when you try to represent both the teachers and the administrators at the same time.
For example, a teacher in South Georgia
just switched from GAE to MACE last month because in his grievance hearing, the
Superintendent informed the GAE UniServ Director that he had a “problem” because she too was a GAE member. The GAE rep just sort of hung his head and said, “I think that you know that
I will be fair.” If he were a lawyer, he would be disbarred for trying to represent both sides. When MACE goes into a grievance hearing, a termination hearing,
a non-renewal hearing, a suspension hearing, or a reprimand hearing, we know whose side we are on. We know, without a doubt, for whom we are fighting. GAE and
PAGE cannot say that. MACE is not
a tea and crumpet organization. We do not sponsor spelling bees nor do we do
all of the “feel good” stuff that GAE and PAGE do. We do not give
out tote bags to teachers. We have never met an administrator who is afraid of
a tote bag or a spelling bee.
Now, when Roy Barnes threatened the entire teaching profession by
removing due process rights for teachers, MACE stormed the Capitol like peasants
with pitchforks. We picketed for several days, garnering print and electronic
coverage. In fact, it was the MACE
Brigade picketing the Capitol grounds which first gave Roy
the moniker, “King Roy.” Don Balfour, in the State Senate, actually
borrowed that nickname for Roy while MACE was still
picketing Roy outside the Capitol and addressed Roy
as “King Roy” in the Senate chamber.
MACE tries to warn its members on its web site about the “Needs Improvement”
status of the administrators in the state. We have to constantly upgrade this
evaluation list. We guarantee members an aggressive defense in any job-action
hearing. We assist teachers with letters and rebuttals. And, sometimes because of our “radical” reputation, all it takes to take care of a teacher’s
situation is a call from me or from a staff attorney. So, we let GAE and PAGE
be GAE and PAGE. We do not try to mimic these organizations. They do some good things. We at MACE just know that we are better than any other organization at what we do, viz., backing off an angry and abusive
administrator from a teacher’s case. Usually, this angry and abusive administrator
is either power-tripping or is too spineless to stand up to the irate and irresponsible parents or too lazy to address the
antics of the defiant and disruptive “student.”
These are really the substantive issues which the teachers address on a systematic
basis. These are the issues which MACE
is not afraid to address and does not grow weary in addressing. No other group
has the fortitude or the inclination to address these “silent” issues. At
addressing these issues, no other organization comes even close to MACE.