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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

What qualities make a school union rep effective?

What qualities make a school union rep effective?

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Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Online Editor

Elected by their fellow teachers, school union representatives juggle this job side by side a full-time teaching gig. They often have such responsibilities as being the first line of defense when a teacher has a question about their contract, has a complaint or wants to file a grievance. It's a job with a lot of responsibility and a job that often holds a certain level of power as well.

What are the qualities that make for a good rep? Have you had any that were better than others? What made the difference?

Please share with us!

Nancy's picture
9/10th grade US history teacher, CT

The best quality that I have seen in my 10 years has been a tenured teacher who is on staff for a while. We have one that has consistantly been there for the teachers through many changes in administration. I will say that she deserves time to do that job as a preperation period for the amount she does. Our building is in a constant state of flux and this only adds to the union reps job.

Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Online Editor

Hi Nancy,

Thanks for sharing about your school union rep. It sounds like these two qualities -- reliability and consistency -- you value greatly in your rep.

You said that your building, or school, is in "a constant state of flux" and I wonder if this is primarily from the changes in your administration?

To all: Do you think frequent turn-over in administration and leadership makes a union reps job more difficult?

Thanks again for sharing,


Gary Marcellus's picture

It takes time to learn the role of being an advocate for teachers. Not only the contract issues but the time to learn each school systems "system" and who to go to to get answers.
Also, it is important for the union rep to take the time to build relationships with all of their colleagues. The union rep's colleagues need to have confidence that their union rep will keep matters confidential.
The union rep should be a two-way communicator between the union and the school.

Mike Lareau's picture

I agree with the other posts that consistency and reliability are very important for a building rep to have. I also think the building rep has a responsibility to mentor or teach his/her fellow teachers about the union and what it stands for. In these current times, each person needs to know their rights and responsibilities as educators. We can't always rely on the rep to figure it all out for us. Understanding your contract is very important. This is why I think the reps also have to do some educating of staff as well.

Lastly, I agree with Mr. Marcellus above, that confidentiality is everything. When the trust of privacy is gone, the communication is gone as well.

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