Just For New Teachers participants urged to ‘enjoy the moment’
Between workshop sessions, a luncheon packed with educators in their first five years of practice was all about conversations and connections.
A large banquet room buzzed with conversations about how to not just survive — but thrive — in the early years of a teaching career.
One teacher asked colleagues sitting at a table with her how they handled challenging special education plans. Teachers at another table focused on the best ways to spark a love of reading in students. Others swapped their “embarrassing teacher moments” and “best teaching moments.”
This was the revamped look of the MTA’s annual Just For New Teachers conference, which was held Dec. 4 at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel and Conference Center.
The MTA New Member Committee, which organizes the event, did away this year with traditional plenary and keynote-speaker formats. Instead, the committee opened the conference with a lively question-and-answer session with members that was moderated by Michael Milton, who used his time at the microphone to quiz panelists Rose Bell, Andrea Pires, Gene Reiber and Melanie Levine.
The panelists tried to highlight “the stuff you don’t learn in college.” Pires, for example, described the unexpected bonds that teachers form with students. Reiber reflected on how rapidly educators progress in their careers and advised the approximately 200 attendees to “enjoy the moment.”
The conference did offer its traditional array of workshops aimed at meeting the needs of educators within their first five years of practice. Participants delved into classroom management techniques and student-engagement strategies with peers from across the state.
The lunch between workshop sessions was all about conversations and connections, a practical demonstration of New Member Committee Chair Laura Vago’s reminder that “we’ve got your back.”
New Member Committee Chair Laura Vago reminded participants that “we’ve got your back.”
“We will listen to your successes and frustrations, answer your questions, hug you, share our best strategies, tell you the stories of the times things went really well, and tell you the stories of the complete disasters we survived,” Vago said in remarks during the luncheon.
MTA leaders acknowledged the challenges that new educators face and reminded them how important their work is.
MTA President Barbara Madeloni spoke about the joy of teaching and how it is under assault from the campaign to standardize and privatize public education.
“You’re here because you are driven by something that is possible,” Madeloni said. “Don’t let anybody tell you that a vision is not essential.”
MTA Vice President Janet Anderson told the audience that she has never regretted her decision to become a teacher. She quoted from the novel “The Prince of Tides,” written by Pat Conroy, saying, “There’s no word in the language I revere more than ‘teacher.’ My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I’ve honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher.”
Even as a number of new teachers opened up about challenges presented by everything from lesson planning to finding the right mentor, Vago and other members of the New Member Committee assured them that everything tends to work out.
“We know that you are going to be the excellent future leaders of our profession,” Vago said. “We know that you will prove to the world why it is that teaching is the noblest of professions, worthy of care, support and defense within an increasingly hostile public sphere.”