How to Answer the Tough Questions.

You’re out on the front line of membership. From time to time, potential members will ask some pretty tough questions. When answering any question, the most important thing to remember is to answer honestly, draw from your own experiences, and to speak from your heart. Try switching places with the potential member. If you were asking the same question, what kind of response would you like to receive?

Here are some potentially tough questions:

If someone asks: How will I afford it?

You might answer like this: I can certainly understand your concern because I’m on a budget, too. Although, through the years, I’ve found my membership far too valuable to give up. Without the GAE and the NEA, there would be little help with the so-called No Child Left Behind nightmare and little hope of realistic salaries or better insurance. Without GAE, we are pretty much on our own. To me, dues are an investment I make in the future of public schools and in the future of my profession. My Association can’t give me the support I need unless I make that investment.

Besides, many members more than make up the cost of dues through the member benefit savings. We save at restaurants, on vacation, on tires, and cell phones. We even save on home mortgages. I’ll bring you a list of these benefits tomorrow. (link to benefits)

If someone asks: What if I don’t agree with Association action?

You might answer like this: Believe it or not, the right to disagree is actually one of our greatest strengths. Once the debate is over, I usually agree with far more than I oppose. Before decisions are reached, members—just like the two or us—discuss and debate the issues fully. Sometimes when I think I don’t agree, I find I do once I have the “whole story.” However, when I still don’t agree on an issue, I can voice my concerns to my elected representatives and work to change the Association’s position.

You have to remember, the Association is run by members for members. We set the course of action.

If someone asks: But, I won’t really have a voice in what the Association does. Right?

You might answer like this: Wrong. You have a voice and a vote every time your local takes action. Through Association Representatives (or ARs) in every school, members help shape local decisions. Through other elected officers and delegates, you have a direct connection to GAE’s Board of Directors and to both the GAE and NEA Representative Assemblies (or RAs) that are held each year. GAE members also elect xxx representatives to the NEA Board of Directors. So, there are many chances to be heard.

If someone asks: Why are dues so expensive?

You might answer like this: When the cost of protecting and improving the profession is compared with other things we buy, I think the GAE dues are a tremendous bargain.

If someone asks: My wife (or husband) also teaches. How can we afford double dues?

You might answer like this: I understand how couples have a tough decision to make, but your GAE membership is like your insurance policies. If one of you has an accident, it doesn’t help the one who isn’t covered. The same thing applies if one of your needs legal assistance. When both of you join, you get double the benefits—and double the protection. I know, that if it was me, I wouldn’t want to be the one left out. As educators, you both have a big stake in the Association’s success, and I think that both of you should support it.

If someone asks: I don’t see what GAE and NEA do that we can’t do locally. Why not keep that dues money “at home”?

You might answer like this: Are you kidding? One local Association could never afford to do the job alone. A substantial part of GAE and NEA dues comes back to give us a professional staff person, what we call a Uniserv Director or UD, for short, who is close by to help us whenever we need it. GAE also has well-trained, experienced staff who provide “cutting edge” professional development, the legislative “know how” to get things done, and smart legal advice from on staff legal counsel. GAE’s staff works for us while we work with our students.

However, I can tell you need to know more about what the Association does at the state and national levels. I’ll be back tomorrow with some specifics.

If someone asks: I don’t think I want to join. I can take of myself.

You might answer like this: If everyone felt that way, we might still be paying on tea to England. Seriously, until Georgia’s public educators organized to work together, salaries were very low and benefits were weak. It wasn’t until we organized and seriously went to work in the legislative arena that elected officials started paying more than lip service to schools.

I wish we lived in a world—and worked in a profession—where we got everything we needed without having to organize on the issues or pay dues. But we don’t. And knowing that I have GAE beside me every day is well worth what I pay in dues. GAE services help me be a better educator. GAE supports me when things are tough. And each membership means that GAE will have the resources to do even more for public educators in Georgia.

If someone asks: Why join? I get all the salary benefits anyway.

You might answer like this: You could think of it that way. But school boards and legislators want to know how many people GAE represents when we advocate for educators and students. They want to know if GAE represents the overwhelming majority. Each member helps us make our case stronger. The more members we have, the stronger our voice. When you join with GAE, you send a very clear message to policy makers: They know we stand together behind our leaders at every level. And trust me, that makes a very big difference.

If someone asks: Why should I be involved in politics? I don’t believe school employees should be.

You might answer like this: You have a right to believe that, and you always have a choice whether you want to contribute to the Association’s political action funds. (We keep them separate precisely for that reason—to give you a choice.)

Since I’ve been a member, I’ve come to see why being involved in politics is important. Things get better only when we work to make them better. Staying out of politics gives policy makers a good excuse to ignore us and our concerns. If we aren’t in the “game,” why should they bother to include us in their game plan?