Connecting aspiring educators to their union, profession
As Megan Bartel starts the second half of her year of student teaching, she can’t help but look forward to her future career in the classroom. She also looks forward to being an active teacher member of her union.
“I’m looking forward so much to get into a job, talk to my building rep, talk with the staff in my area and look at my contract,” she said. “And that is just one resource that we have available to us.”
Bartel, a student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and president of the Education Minnesota Aspiring Educators program, says that there are student teachers in classrooms across the state who feel just like her, as well as many who don’t know anything about the union, too.
“We are here and we are a part of the union as students,” she said. “Building reps should be on the lookout for their practicum students and student teachers. Reach out and let them know they are a member. Send them to the Aspiring Educators program for resources.”
Education Minnesota staff and the members of the EMAE program have developed a resource for cooperating teachers to use as an starting point for conversations about the profession and the union.
The resource was developed with the idea that many of our student teachers are stepping into the classroom for the first time and are looking to their mentors and cooperating teachers for tips, advice and guidance. The union can, and should, play a big role in fostering that relationship from the moment student teaching begins.
“Your student teacher is already probably a member,” said Bartel. “A majority of schools use Education Minnesota as their practicum insurance. So a teacher could say, ‘Who’s your insurance? Oh, it’s Education Minnesota. Did you know…’ and then talk about the union. Or if the cooperating teacher isn’t comfortable, they could ask the building rep to have a conversation with the student teacher.”
Knowing that 33 percent of teachers leave within their first five years, and many citing a lack of support as being one of the primary reasons they leave, the resource offers tips and tools to connect with and encourage your student teachers to be lifelong members of the education community.
Bartel said she has been in multiple practicum and student teaching placements and she always has talked with her cooperating teachers about their local union. She has had some tell her to not get too involved and keep her head down, and one who was so excited about her position with EMAE that she walked her around the whole building introducing her as the EMAE president.
Bartel said she hopes sharing out this resource will be a useful tool for educators – both active and student.
“Please share your knowledge with the student teacher,” said Bartel. “In Minnesota, it is such an important thing. We have all of these resources available. They don’t know anything about it in their first year or two. People who don’t get involved in college don’t really know what it is.”
The Education Minnesota resource document includes 10-minute meeting topics, one-on-one conversation starters and a section on preparing for tough questions.
“We are the future of the profession and of the union, and there are a lot of us who want to be involved,” said Bartel.