Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Respect and Responsibility

I have written several dozen articles over the past five years. Each article is personal to me and ties into the reality of our lives, education and current times.

I spend a great deal of time traveling across Nebraska as well as the nation. I tell my story and I listen a lot to other’s stories. Recently, I had a member from a local that was down in membership ask, “Have you ever seen such a divisive time in our country?”  He then added, “Can’t we all just get along?”

We had a good discussion about what is contributing to the divisive nature of the world we live in. While it seems “politics” is a cause of many disagreements, there are many factors contributing to the divide splitting our communities and schools.

Even so, an “alternative” organization claims it is the solution to the “big bad union”— and is attempting to sell memberships based solely on the perception of NSEA being “too political.” I’ve heard the ways in which this group twists our advocacy and the misinformation it spreads. Sadly, I’ve also heard of the promises these “alternative” organizations don’t keep when an educator whose career is on the line turns to them for help.

The best way to respond to divisive misinformation is to educate with facts. NSEA’s Year-Round Organizing and Membership site has tons of resources for our members to use with potential members. Visit NSEA.org/YearRoundMembership to help communicate the truth about NSEA’s work on behalf of members and public education.

Something I didn’t tell the member who asked the question about our divisive world is that I often lay awake pondering the same questions: Why can’t we all just get along? What can I do about it? As I often do, I went to the web to research. The first thing that popped up was Kenny Chesney’s song Get Along.

“To get along
Down the road
We’ve got a long, long way to go
Scared to live, scared to die
We ain’t perfect but we try
Get along while we can
Always give love the upper hand
Paint a wall, learn to dance
Call your mom, buy a boat
Drink a beer, sing a song
Make a friend, can’t we all get along.”

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Are people in general just looking to criticize and divide? All around us are opportunities to get along with others. What stands in the way? What can we do as an Association to ease the divisiveness around us?

After my conversation with the member, I started asking people for feedback. I attended the Durham Museum Omaha Teacher’s Night. I had a wide range of conversations from veteran teachers to beginning teachers. My daughter, Joy, who has a year left at UNK before becoming an early childhood teacher, came with me.

One thing was very clear, our educators are dedicated, hardworking, caring and amazing people. I also heard some heartbreaking stories of colleagues, parents, administrators and students being downright nasty to each other.

Responsibilities of Members
It made me think of the work I’ve been doing helping update local bylaws for our 260 locals. We recently added a section that outlines the responsibilities of members to each other.

In the interest of intentionally fostering goodwill and trust and protecting the rights of all individuals to dignity and mutual respect, it is expected all members display:

  • Respect for others and their views;
  • Recognize and value individual differences;
  • Promote mutual respect, understanding and cooperation as the basis of interactions amongst participants in Association activities, events, or meetings;
  • Maintain the reputation of the Association by conducting themselves in accordance with high standards of professionalism.

The bottom line is we can get along. It is a choice we all need to make.