Sometimes, Things Happen: What should you do?
Just a reminder, since the main reason that you belong to NMACT is for the insurance, you might want to know what to do in case of accusations or problems. The first and most important thing to do is document. If any kind of a situation happens, that sets off that alarm in your stomach and heart,
Sit down immediately and write in your own words what happened. Date it. Be objective. No emotions, just facts. If you do this each time you have a concern, you will be prepared when someone comes and brings forth accusations. If possible, have witnesses to document. Contact your NMACT officer, either locally or at the state level.
New Mexico Association of Classroom Teachers
When you need to contact the insurance agent, it is
Terry Skinner at Myron F. Steves and Company
She will be very helpful if you need her. Letting the state officers know what is happening is vital for support and guidance. The first visit to an attorney will be paid for by NMACT when it is approved. Since NMACT does not have an attorney on the payroll, you will need to find one locally. Several things to keep in mind, does this attorney have any connection to your school system and is this person someone you can trust. If possible, take someone with you to all meetings that you attend. It gives support as well as a witness to what is happening. Have this approved with all parties before the meeting.
There is another essential thing to remember. Your district has a grievance procedure. Before you have a lawyer get involved in a squabble over how you are treated, ask if the grievance process can be used. This process is there to protect you and give you a course of action to follow in obtaining a solution to a problem. You may feel that a lawyer will get it accomplished faster and that it will provide you with more clout, but this is not always true. The grievance procedure will have time limits set for each level and must have results at each step. Keeping things in house can provide you and the district the chance to resolve the problem in an agreeable manner. If you do not have a copy of this procedure, ask for one. You might even want a copy of it before something happens, therefore being proactive in finding a solution before it begins.
Things to do:
- Document. State facts, not emotions.
- Try to work things out with the individuals where the problem occurs. If reason and discussion can resolve the situation, do so. Take a third party to be a witness if you are allowed.
- Keep calm.
- Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People tells us to “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. This is good advice to follow when you want to be heard and understood. Try to listen first. Don’t try to outguess the person who is on the attack. Listen. Think. Then respond.
- If documentation is going to be necessary to resolve a problem, write, edit, have someone else read it, rewrite. Time spent this way will clear your head and help you to focus and to be prepared.
- Talk to an NMACT officer. Listen. Proceed.
- Get a copy of your school’s grievance procedure. This document is designed to help you and the district and can have more potential power for solving the situation between you and your employer than a lawyer who is an outsider. This procedure has timelines set that will keep the process moving forward. A lawyer may want to work on their time schedule that may drag it out for months or years.
- A lawyer is not your first solution, unless you are arrested.