1 Minute Union Update

Monday, September 12, 2016

Thought I would give this a try.  Been kicking it around for a long time now.  Figured test it out here.  So here you go!

Thank you. Let me know if it worked or didn't work for your please.  Hope to do some news audio from the articles I get over the week.

A Couple Things Irking Me-How We Treat Eachother

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I have been struggling recently with a picture posted on a Facebook friend's wall.  Something about it has made me feel frustrated.  I did not engage in the conversation head on because doing so in someone else's space (Social Media Wise) has always been a little unprofessional for me.  I do not know if it makes me a bad person, by not commenting, but to me I really don't think engaging in these types of discussion's in their circles is respectful to their personal space, publicly.   Here is the picture:
I don't know why in particular this made me mad over anything else I see, but it did.  We can not operate in absolutes.  The system does not work that way.  This picture and scenario is not an either/or or an exclusive one with the other.  We are better than this.

Fast forward 5ish days and I read this story today.  #IStandwithAhmed Link

We may say these are two separate issues.  When this story broke I felt myself even more frustrated with this picture.  It is these types of pictures that run rampant and are left unchecked, that cause situations like Ahmed Mohamed to occur.  I'm sure I do not have all the information in the story, but it is still a sad day for our children.  We have to do better.  We can do better.

In closing, I hope to do better of my self and engage in these conversations in places that make me uncomfortable, because they need to happen.  I'm sorry that Ahmed has to deal with this struggle while I'm left watching from thousands of miles away.  We should never have to stifle a child for their excitement or creativity.  I hope that this young innovator and inventor never stops.  I'm excited to hear what his next story will be.  Go get'm kid.

Beginning of the Year

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Beginning of the Year

I really want to formally reflect more.  I'm hoping that this will provide me a chance to at least kick it off.  I do not have early week morning meetings, yet.  With this time, I want to take a chance to document some mental reflections.  The next year is going to be interesting.  I have taken on some additional professional responsibility as well as welcoming my third child to the mix.  I'm worried after my son is born I won't have energy to reflect, but if I start now it will help establish a more deliberate process.  I'm going to do my best to write but not concern with grammar and editing.  Sorry if that bothers you.

School Year Kick Off

My secret favorite part of the new year is freshly waxed floors and new year smell.  Everything about are buildings are primed and ready for the students and staff to enter, marking the beginning of a new year. 

For me this first week will involve a lot of repeat as I'm on a four day rotation cycle.  It is important that I work on keeping it as fun and interesting the fourth time through as it was the first time through.  The excitement level is a buzz in the building as small changes happen and it is just enough to keep the students guessing on how the building expectations have changed.

With my third child's due date September 30th, I hope to get through enough curriculum to provide the building blocks of routine for my sub which will be in for about 8-10 school days during my leave.

PLC Process

My District continues to work its way through the Professional Learning Communities process.  I feel the key stakeholders are coming around, but a lot of work needs to continue.  I will be interesting as my personnel work groups do the best we can with the set up we have been given. 


The clock is ticking.  September 30th! OMG 3 children.  Zone Coverage.  On the non-freak-out side, we are near ready.  It is going to make for an interesting year.

NEA RA 2015 Wrap Up

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

NEA RA 2015 Wrap Up
July 7th Orlando FL
Hello Members,
I write this on my way back from the National Education Association Annual Representative Assembly (NEA RA) for 2015. Work was completed by over 8,000 delegates from across the United States. Events this year occurred that I have never experienced in my four years of attendance to this proud event.
Education Minnesota and other merged states embarked on a campaign to change NEA’s constitution and bylaws to allow us to have full representation to the RA. We currently do not receive full representation because of our merged status. This language limits our ability to represent our members. The current language was agreed to during negotiations for recognition of merged states back in the 90s. We are currently allocated 68% share of our members to the NEA RA. This was a disappointing realization for me. We never give only 68% of ourselves to our Union and should not be recognized as such. The changes requested, and voted on, would recognize us as a full 100% status, much like our other proud organization (American Federation of Teachers(AFT)) recognizes us. Both the Constitution and Bylaws changes failed, but systematic change is rarely accomplished overnight. Returning our voice to a “One Member One Vote” status is a priority and we will continue with a new constitutional amendment until we are in a position where we are recognized whole.
The delegates of the NEA RA took an unprecedented(in my years) stand to help shape our country’s social justice landscape. Issues targeted this year were increased advocacy for our students on the topics of institutional racism(#eracim), GBLTQ topics, Elimination of Symbols of Racism, Reduction in Toxic Testing, etc (The action items can be found in this hyperlink). Extensive debate was had on the floor as to the role we play in these issues. Topics and resources developed from the action of our delegates should be seen this year. Some may say that we did not go far enough, but I know we are moving in the right direction and hope to see us continue these changes in the future. Look around and keep your eyes open as the NEA increases its advocacy and looks to improve our world for students.
From all of the increase advocacy comes a cost. 1.4 million dollars was invested on New Business Items(NBIs) this year our of our contingency fund of three million. That is an all time high in my four years. That number may be concerning to some members. I understand, it was concerning to me on the floor as well and played major role during voting this year. As members, we need to understand that the actions we took were taken to help improve our students lives. The resources created and implemented in the next year should help our students and educators as we move through our workplace and home. We see the struggles and concerns of our students and will continue to work on their behalf.
To all the members who attended the NEA RA, thank you for giving up your time over the four of July to stand side to side with your brothers and sisters of our UNION. The hours get long, but many laughs were had. To the members at home, thank you for allowing us to represent you as we move forward to help change student’s lives. It is through your work and experience that we are able to make best changes to our student’s lives.
In closing, it was a long week(went late into the night on the last day) with a lot of good examples of what it means to advocate on our members behalf, but the work has just begun. As members, we are going to be called upon this year to do more to help support our students as they navigate their lives. With the support of your professional organization, it is hoped that it will be a little smoother by providing you with the building blocks to increase your impact. We are in this together, even if not everyone agrees. Seek out the voices and listen to the stories. The stories provide us with the motivation to continue the work of our Union and our students. Only we can create the change we need. When together we can not be stopped.
Hopefully see you next year in DC,
Ryan Fiereck
Education Minnesota St. Francis

East Bethel and Cedar Creek Community School

Frustrations, but truly why I attend my National Education Association Rep Assem

Saturday, July 5, 2014

I hope you’ll ignore my language mistakes as I’m a little tired tonight.  It has been another amazing six days of working to try to move our profession forward.  Tonight I decided I should just chill in the hotel for a significant time before bed.  This is the first time I have done this in the three years I’ve been actively involved in the National Education Association Representative Assembly (NEA RA).  I did it because I felt like it was time to reflect a little on the last three years.  As I was siting here I asked myself, “Why do you attend this event?”  Just to help me clear my thoughts, I started working through reasons the NEA RA has made me feel overwhelmed in the past.

Every year this event creates a chunk of time away from my family.  I know this is a choice my family and I have made but sometimes during the long week you see the parents and children walking around the streets.  It makes me smile.  They remind me of my two little girls and one big girl.  Thank you, my daughters, for allowing me to chase one of my passions at the sacrifice of time together.  I know you’re starting to understand Dad is gone, but when I’m gone I think of you everywhere.  Not only in the eyes of many of the children I cross, but also in the student delegates that my proud Union sends.  My wife, please know, thank you is not enough to show appreciation.  You understand the how important this experience is to me.  I don’t know if you knew what you signed up for when you committed to me, but you have endured the challenge and allowed me to try to find my place in an organization bigger than any single person.

(Excuse me while I get on a small soapbox for item #2)

The second spot is one I’m still trying to figure out.  Recently I have found out that there might be some concern from my members that I’m doing too much work for the state or national and not enough seen for my local.  I have always looked at my participation in my local, my state, and my national unions as one in the same.  I have worked with, networked to, and planned for representing my local as I attend these events.  I hope that I can prove to my local members that these events help elevate not only our profession but also their workplace.

(Takes a small step down from the box, sorry about that spot.  Lets get to the good stuff.)

A major reason why I love being apart of the NEA RA is because of how my organization gathers so many members together.  Every year I see the red, white, and blue fabric hanging from the ceiling and covering the ground.  It gives me chills.  I have promised, if that feeling goes away, I’ll not return next year.  I always try to sneak in the day before everything starts just too look at the convention floor before all of the people fill the space.  The vision of chairs, in perfect rows, ready for over 6,000 people to work together amazes me. I know that one of those chairs will be filled with me, but the rest will be different individuals, all working collectively towards the betterment of our students.  I quickly realize I’m working in a place that is bigger than just me.  It is bigger than the members on the convention floor.  It is bigger than all the educators in the profession.  It is bigger than the connections between students and educators or NEA and Unions.  This is a decision making body that makes a difference in our society by setting high expectations of ourselves.  I wish I could show or express to you the beauty of this room.  The air in the room glows with potential towards improvement.

The second reason I have fallen in love with the NEA RA is it give me a chance to not only represent my local (St. Francis), but also my Education Minnesota election district (A).  Much like my beautiful wife, when describing my local and district I can’t find words that do justice. The groups I represent are doing great work to improve our communities.  These items can often go unseen or unheard, but the work being done is astonishing.  Then, I get to come to this massive event and help support our successes and struggles from back at home.  The pride I feel as I write this energizes me to brag about our stories we have to share.  When networking with my brothers and sisters here, I draw on the experience of my fellow union members.  The stories contain life blood of what we represent as a Union.  Thank you, members for allowing me the privilege to do work on your behalf.

The third reason I love this event has to do with the many hats we wear as proud Education Minnesota Union members.  When we talk about teacher Unions, Minnesota is one of few that can say they’re merged.  I have the pride of wearing a hat that says AFT and NEA.  Education Minnesota is a Union of 70,000 members.  When I’m on this floor, I’m labeled a ‘Union Thug’ of the National Education Association.  We represent over 3 million educators.  I wish I had the skill to do the math and talk about all the students we proudly work together with.  By attending this event, I get to be part of the solution.  I work with my brothers and sisters on the floor to put fort an agenda that does what is best for students.  On the convention floor, we may not all agree, but we make a decision and move forward.  We use lazer focus on improving aspects of their life.  I’ve learned, from my experience, that we do this because we’re the only ones who can.  We must provide our students with every chance at success.  It could be improved focus on learning conditions.  It could be better ways to fund their classrooms.  It could even be removing outside influences that are away from the classroom but effect their ability to learn.  Know that the vision we see, from being part of the solution, is a better tomorrow.

This turned out to be longer than I thought it would be.  Today we completed day two, each consisting of over 10 hours, dedicated to the vision we see of our profession.  I have always thought it was poetic that this event occurred over the 4th of July because we are working hard on a better learning climate for America.

Thank you to all educators, and especially their families, who allow our organization these days to focus and deliver towards a better tomorrow.  I’m going to bed as tomorrow brings another great day working hard on behalf of my member for our profession.  Solidarity.

If testing is the solution, the rest of the conversation needs to change.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

As a teacher in a public school my ears often perk up when I hear about high stakes testing in schools and tying tests to teacher evaluation. Our students and educators feel many stresses when it comes to testing. In the 8 years I have been teaching the process of using tests as some form of reflection on our teaching abilities has only become more scrutinized year after year. I do not accept this as a quality solution, however, if societal and political entities continue to accept and force high stakes testing upon students and educators, it is time teachers come to the table with some solutions.

If high stakes testing is the only solution (and it doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon), then other factors must change in order to use testing effectively to move education forward. I’m a teacher, not a research specialist. My thoughts are my thoughts and are here to help provide a perspective to move forward and change the conversation.

If we are going to accept testing as the solution we must change the pressures.

Built in time for supportive conversations toward student and educator improvement. We must look at the results of the testing and create time for educators to work together to improve their practices. At the same time, teachers, parents and students need to be able to talk and have critical conversations that can improve student’s performance. All of these conversations must be done in a way that no party is feeling punitive, but instead is creating a supportive conversation with the ability to move everyone toward their future goals. Open conversations are vital to the educational process and must be extended to the testing realm.

Eliminate the high stakes feel for the sake of students AND educators. Educators need to be able to harness and hone their practice through some form of trial and error. It might not be a great thing to hear, but sometimes educators fail. When I make a mistake, I’m not proud of it, but I learn. Public education must build an environment so that a single test performance will not be used against students and teachers, but can be used as an opportunity for growth. Creating a high stakes system does not benefit any party involved. By allowing teachers to challenge and practice their curriculum, we allow them to examine the results of the year by comparing testing numbers in a way focused on both student and teacher growth and improvement. Using a Gordon Ramsay approach of pressure during testing, does not help anyone improve in a manner that creates quality classroom environments.

Test results must be used as tools, not awards for any party involved. This is truly the reason why I do not want to completely dismiss testing. There is some value when we use it for the correct reasons. Use the testing results as a way to build toward future results. We must create constructive feedback systems that allow for growth by students and educators. Also, by doing this we create an environment where teachers are more supportive to the idea of sharing ideas. When the competition is removed from testing scores, we can knock down the walls in our classroom and do what is best for students.

If high stakes testing continues to be legislated, then teachers must continue to operate with testing as a centerpiece to their classrooms. I'm asking politicians, school board members, superintendents, building administrators, and community members to change the conversation and create environments that actually support learning from test results. If we don't, we will not reach the outcomes we strive to achieve.

(Thank you very much Mrs. Glenn Morehouse Olson for helping edit it up.)

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