Feature stories

What a difference the UFT makes

Danny Campbell, former charter school teacher

Members who taught elsewhere share their stories

Danny Campbell, music teacher, PS 214, Queens

In my four years as a music teacher, all the teachers I have come across really cared for and did their absolute best to support the children. But when I taught at a charter school in Brooklyn — from 2014 to 2017 — the teachers really weren’t incentivized to develop professionally.

We weren’t given the time or support to attend to all the responsibilities of teaching like grading, bulletin boards and reaching out to parents. We had preps, but those were used for data meetings and things like that.

We used to have dinner parties at the school — not because we wanted to socialize, but because many teachers would be there until 5 or 6 at night every night of the week.

What was especially challenging for me was when I was asked to teach “music ELA” classes during my first year at the charter school. This was very challenging and stressful. I had no idea how the standards worked, and I had to do loads of research on my own, which ate up a lot of my free time.

There was huge turnover at the charter school: After my third year, out of almost 40 people, I was approximately the eighth most-senior staff member there.

What I love most at my new job as a music teacher at PS 214 is that, thanks to union negotiations, I have the time to grow professionally and continue my education. That means a lot to me as I’m a total music nerd. I like being in a place where I can continue to thrive as a musician as well as broaden my scholarly understanding of music and music education.

Additionally, thanks to the rights and benefits the union has won, I continually learn from my colleagues because they have been developing professionally for years. When I have questions, aside from my mentor who has been my single greatest resource, everyone I have spoken to at PS 214 has provided experienced, anecdotal and research-based support to my inquiries.

Danny Campbell, music teacher, PS 214, Queens

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