Learning, camaraderie at the EMAC conference

Learning, camaraderie at the EMAC conference

EMAC 2023
EMAC Committee members introduced themselves during a question-and-answer session.

MTA members who attended the 2023 EMAC Conference heard an energetic and enlightening keynote address by Bettina L. Love, Ph.D., the William F. Russell professor at Teachers College, at Columbia University. And they enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow educators of color, who came together through activities organized by the Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee to support each other.

Love addressed the marking of 40 years of educational policies that have harmed Black children and educators, touching on a range of topics including the recent history of book bans, the damaging environmental conditions present in schools, waves of so-called education reform that have targeted students and educators, and false efforts aimed at addressing “equity,” which do not result in actions.

EMAC 2023
Columbia University professor Bettina L. Love focused her keynote address on how students and educators were penalized by education ‘reform’ efforts that began in the 1980s.

“You learning about equity is not equity,” Love said. “I’m glad you went to a workshop. I’m glad you learned about equity, but if you still have the same amount of resources, we aren’t talking about equity.”

She signed copies of her recent book, “Punished for Dreaming, How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal,” which was distributed to members.

The Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee conference, held at the Sheraton Hotel in Framingham, opened with a performance by the Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers, who guided attendees in a series of tribal dances. Nearly 150 people attended the two-day conference.

EMAC 2023
Five members of the Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers performed a variety of tribal dances and songs, inviting MTA members to participate in several. The Calumet Dance is shown above, in which dancers use their bodies and feathers to evoke the shape of a tobacco pipe, used in ceremonies.

On the opening night, MTA President Max Page addressed issues of racism in standardized testing, which also were highlighted by Love in her keynote. “That system was promoted cynically to promote the wrongfully titled ‘achievement gap’,” Page said, “which instead was used to punish and blame students of color, English language learners, students with disabilities, and their schools, rather than providing funding and other supports.”

Individual sessions on the second day of the conference allowed educators to compare notes and experiences and discuss ways to engage students and become stronger professionals.

One of the sessions focused on how using drama and theater skills in the classroom can engage students.

Ashley Gomes, a wellness teacher at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, often begins classes with an activity that includes charades and the telephone game, which gets students moving as they act out a phrase.

A teacher since 2020, Gomes’s said she was enjoying the collegiality of the event: “It is energizing to come to a conference like this and listen to people and hear what they’re doing.”

EMAC 2023
Ashley Gomes, a wellness teacher at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, said she appreciated learning from fellow educators.

Candace Shivers, the chair of the EMAC Committee, encouraged attendees to become active in their locals. The MTA, as a union, needs more members of color to become leaders, she said.

“This is purposeful. We don’t want you to go back and say, ‘It was a great conference’.” Instead, she said, the committee wants people to go back and try to get involved or help their local in any way they can. “Labor and social and civil rights are not separate. They are one and the same.”