Meet your chapter leader

Spending a few minutes on some union basics in your first days on the job will put you in good hands for months to come. Get off to a solid start by meeting your chapter leader, your schoolís elected union representative and also a busy, knowledgeable educator. If you have not yet met him or her, find out who your chapter leader is and introduce yourself. As many new teachers have learned, a chapter leader can be an excellent source of information and your first line of defense if you run into problems. Here are some things you may want to discuss with your chapter leader:

* Is your program correct? You have the right to such things as preparation periods, duty-free lunches and appropriate professional activities.

* What are the class-size limits for your program? Crowded classes are educationally unsound for students and they overburden teachers.

* Should you be paired with a mentor? All newly hired New York City teachers are eligible to receive support and guidance from a mentor, thanks to a state mandate and some funding to go with it.

* Ask for a copy of this newspaper, the New York Teacher. It is published biweekly and, until you are on the unionís mailing list, you can get a copy from your chapter leader.

The UFT trains chapter leaders so they know the contract and the unionís many programs and services. Chapter leaders can answer questions about everything from salary and benefits to rights, rules and regulations. (If they donít know the answer, they will check with union experts who do and get back to you or refer you to someone in your UFT borough office.) They can also advocate for you if your rights are not respected. Most chapter leaders are available at specific times and locations for private appointments and they hold chapter meetings to keep all members informed. Your chapter leader can also give you enrollment cards for UFT membership, the Welfare Fund and COPE. The UFT Welfare Fund includes an outstanding prescription drug plan, dental plan and optical benefit. But this coverage is separate from your health plan and not automatic so be sure to enroll. 1