Written by Benjamin E. Just, New Member Committee Chair
The other day, I walked into my friend Margaret’s classroom during our prep period.
“Can I just sit for a minute?” I asked. “I need to spend some time with someone who isn’t twelve.” Margaret, who has been teaching middle school since I was eight, just laughed and tossed me a bag of pretzels.
As an educator, my work lives in the minds of other people. Knowledge, after all, is one of only a very few things that you can give away and still have just as much of as when you started. What could be more social?
At the same time, teaching can be very isolating. In the classroom I am the stage manager, the overseer, the supreme arbiter of right and wrong, as well as all of the other (often more enjoyable) roles that a teacher takes on. Because of this, I have often found it possible to feel alone, even while surrounded by my students.
With prep time continually squeezed by staffing shortages and the ever increasing demands of initiatives and programs, not to mention the job of actually planning lessons to teach to students, it can be hard to find five minutes to share strategies and observations with a colleague, much less to form a real bond with them.
This isolation is also true of schools as a whole. On the two or three days a year I am offered an opportunity to do any kind of work with other professionals in my district, the time is invariably “directed” and “focused” by administration. Teachers, therefore, can be forgiven for imagining that the conditions and policies of our districts, even of our own individual school buildings, are universal.
Except that they aren’t. This broadening of perspective is why I so enjoy the conferences and workshops offered by the MTA. Talking with someone who works at a different level, in a different region, but is addressing the same challenges as I am is a powerful experience. More powerful still, is that they often have found a completely different way of addressing that challenge. MTA trainings offer me a chance for true collaboration, true cooperation, and honest discussion on topics of my (and not my administration’s) choice. They help foster a sense of community and solidarity, that I have found it difficult to find anywhere else.
You can view upcoming trainings hosted by the MTA, including February’s Winter Union Skills Conference, at this link.