Thursday, December 3, 2015

Powerful Truths

In Elementary School, I was an avid reader, just as I am today.  In Fifth grade, I discovered an entire shelf of books in the school library that was filled with biographies of notable women.  I made it my mission to read every one of those biographies.  I devoured them like candy.  I couldn't get enough of reading about the lives of women like Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Laura Ingalls Wilder and other amazing, intelligent females who made an impact on history and society in their own way.  

Today, my reading is just as avid, but I tend toward historical fiction and stories of strong women.  I realized that I tend to gravitate toward those stories, when I was thinking about the impact of the women who were being honored last night at the Workforce Development Institute's 2016 Calendar Release Reception.  What a powerful group of ladies who, through their work in their unions and in their community have and continue to make a difference in the lives of workers and families.  I pale in comparison to many of these ladies.  I aspire to be like them, with so many accomplishments and roles that they take on.  I was honored to be in their company last night.  

NYSUT has a membership that is over 70% female.  We dominate the workforce in education and related fields.  Collectively, this is a group of super smart women who, when they work together, are a force to be reckoned with.  This is why I find what is happening within our own ranks so distressing.  Our membership is starkly divided on many issues.  Even worse, much of our membership remains ignorant of what is happening within their own profession.

In my family, I have individuals who are far right and those who are far left on politics.  I tend toward the middle.  As a Libra, I am always trying to find balance so I try to consider all angles before making a decision or taking a stand.  Within our membership, both locally and statewide, we have individuals who are polar opposite in their opinions.  This contributes to lively discussions and to opportunities to see all sides of issues.  However, we must bear in mind these simple words:  United We Stand.  Divided We Fall.   

I have found over my years in the workforce that organizations that are predominately women often have a tendency to undermine each other rather than foster leadership and growth in each other.  

While we may not see eye to eye on all issues, we need to keep in mind a few simple truths:

1. We are in this for the children, ours and those belonging to others.  We must collectively agree to work toward a better free public education system that is lead by educators, not politicians or business people.

2. As women, we should work together to foster leadership and growth amongst our ranks.  We need to stop tearing down our colleagues who show an ability to do more.  Instead, we need to set aside the "popularity" issues and personal feelings for the better of the organization as a whole.  One of my favorite quotes is, "You can tell who the strong women are.  They are the ones you see building one another up, instead of tearing each other down."

3. Divide and conquer is an effective strategy that has been used in battle many times.  If we become divided, we are weakened.  We are stronger together.  In our unity we will find strength.

4. All relationships are compromises, from marriages to businesses.  We must show maturity and realize that compromises sometimes need to be made.  We can't have it all, but we can have most if we work together.

As women, as mothers, as educators, we must learn to stand together.  We have an obligation to our society, our families and our profession to be informed and to create change.  We are a force to be reckoned with, not just on our own, but even more powerfully, together.  Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Pulitzer Prize winning American History Professor, said it best:  "Well behaved women seldom make history".  

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