By Maren Johnson
The last bell rang on the last day of the school year. I looked around my science classroom. Dead fish at every lab station, the remains of several interesting labs. Yes, they were preserved, and yes, the students had followed instructions on putting them back in containers, but still, these dead fish just could not sit in my classroom over the summer—they would need to be disposed of properly, and I would be the one who would need to do that.
During that school year, teachers in my district did not receive any paid time after the end of the year for closing down classrooms, performing check out procedures, and so on. At the moment the last bell rang, that was it--any more time spent doing those activities was on our own, and unpaid. Really, the idea that teachers are done with classroom work the moment the students leave in June is absurd.
Soon after that school day, my local association bargaining team, of which I am a member, met in my classroom for a planning session. As we surveyed the dead fish on the lab benches, the bargaining team talked about how all members have the equivalent of “dead fish”—things that just have to be done after the end of the school year in order to ensure a great start to the next school year. Surveys and individual conversations with members revealed the same thing—teachers and other educators needed some time at the end of the school year.
When our team put together a list of priorities for the next bargaining season, you guessed it—a paid day at the end of the school year for all members made the list—and we got it! Unfortunately, the term "Dead Fish Day" did not make it into actual contract language--nope, instead we're calling it by the much less imaginative term “M7 day,” named after the “M” section of the contract.