Finding Community in the MTA

Finding Community in the MTA

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.

In Review: The New Member Program!

In Review: The New Member Program!

By Alex Hoyt, New Member Committee

That’s a wrap! The MTA New Member Committee just concluded it’s flagship programming for the year. This included the New Member Program (NMP), which offers new educators a crash course on basic union knowledge and activities, and the Basic Bargaining (BB) training, which dives a little deeper into how contracts are negotiated – the most important way that locals serve their members!

During the NMP, participants covered a wide range of critical knowledge and skills that will help them advocate for improved working and learning conditions. Topics covered included how the MTA and local union organizations are structured, the important rights and protections conferred on newer educators by achieving “professional teacher status” (plus how it is possible to get it sooner than you think), how to identify advantageous and bogus salary scales, and strategies both big and small for helping to build local union power and solidarity.

The following week, a mix of returning NMP participants and fresh faces joined the Committee to learn about bargaining – what it is, why it is important, and how it is done. Attendees began preparations first by watching Committee presenters model what one might observe in any negotiation meeting, then debriefed with observations, questions, and discussion. The following day, participants took on the roles of the fictional Towneborough negotiations team and were tasked with simulating a condensed round of negotiations with their administration. They crushed it!

As often happens, the negotiations were not as fruitful as the Towneborough team had hoped, which led us into the final piece of the Basic Bargaining program – collective action. Participants were introduced broadly to the ideas of collective action tactics (when local leadership selects particular actions to build union power and pressure on employers, such as letter writing, stand-outs, petitions, and more) and strategy (making sure that actions are successfully sequenced to achieve desired outcomes).

We think the programming was a success, but don’t take it from us! Participants themselves said that they “understood their contract better,” and came to know the “value of individual relationships” in building union power. They also said that they realized “they were already involved” in their locals, and generally felt more motivated and better equipped to find ways to participate that are both effective and right for them.

Were you unable to make it to the New Member Program or Basic Bargaining this year? Don’t worry – we have more events coming up! Keep an eye out for information on our Early Career Educators Conference happening this fall – a one day event full of different opportunities to learn and connect with other new educators.

Union Skills Winter Workshop Series!

Union Skills Winter Workshop Series!

It may be cold outside, but you can still get fired up to strengthen our union at the 2021 MTA Union Skills Winter Workshop Series!

This year’s virtual event will kick off in one week on Saturday, January 30th with an engaging plenary session featuring Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire, authors of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School, published in November 2020 by The New Press. Click here to check out this book!

The plenary session will be followed by workshops to discuss our vision and goals for 2021, with a focus on our plans to win. Participants will also have the opportunity to take a deeper dive into one of several MTA campaigns: Fund Our Future, The Campaign for Safe and Equitable Schools and Colleges, Cancel MCAS, or Living Wages for ESPs and Adjunct Faculty.  Learn more about the January 30 kick-off event and workshops by clicking here. Or, click here to register!

MTA Union Skills Winter Series
New Teacher Trainings that make a difference!

New Teacher Trainings that make a difference!

Have you ever found yourself sitting through a district-sponsored professional development workshop wondering, “How is this relevant to me right now?!?” If so, you’re not the only one! Professional development trainings and courses are often long and dense, and the material might not be useful, or even new, to you.

On the other hand, these five training sessions offered by the MTA address subjects of great importance to the new teacher — subjects that are rarely covered in district-sponsored professional development. Each training is 90 minutes or less and free to all MTA members. 

1. Professional Teacher Status (45 minutes)
Professional Teacher Status, or PTS, provides significant job security to all who earn it. But earning this status, which is also known as tenure, can be a confusing process. This training reviews PTS requirements while correcting a lot of misinformation. It also explains the rights that educators have before earning PTS.

2. Credit Counseling and Loan Forgiveness (90 minutes)
The financial experts of Cambridge Credit Counseling offer this workshop to explain exactly how educators may qualify for either of two federal loan forgiveness programs. In doing so, they also address the matter of student debt and what to do about it.

3. Salary Scale Analysis (90 minutes)
With many steps and lanes, salary scales can be confusing! This training explains how they work, and shows teachers how to compare likely career earnings between two or more salary scales.   

4. Professional Licensure (90 minutes)
How exactly does a teacher go from their initial license to the required professional license?   MTA licensure experts answer that question by reviewing the path to professional license, and then by answering specific questions from the audience.

5. Rights on the Job for ESPs (60 minutes)
Education Support Professionals, or ESPs, are not covered by the provisions of professional teacher status. Even so, there are many laws and contractual provisions that protect their jobs. This training explores and explains them, so attendees can learn what protections they have. 

Other Professional Development Opportunities:
Looking for something else? The MTA provides professional development workshops in many different subjects, including classroom management, new technologies, and social media.

These workshops are provided at state-wide events such as the Early Career Educators Conference, happening this Saturday, November 14th, online. Click HERE to register!

Other events include Winter Skills Training (returning in February, 2021) and Summer Conference (set for August, 2021). We also offer stand-alone trainings for local associations on specific subjects.   

If you or your local would like to attend these trainings or schedule a training for your members, please contact our New Member Organizer, Ashley Adams, at aadams@massteacher.org or 617-935-1256.