JFNT Presenter Series: Liz Bettencourt


Find Ways to Reach ALL Your Students!

Hi there, new teachers! Shameless plug alert: I’d love you to attend my workshop at the Just For New Teachers conference on 11/19…..

When you think about differentiating instruction, do you get overwhelmed? Feel like it’s way too challenging? Not even know where to start?!

Well, I’m here to provide you with some really practical, easy-to-manage tools and strategies for differentiating your instruction. We’ll get into how important it is to truly reach all of your students where they’re at, and we’ll explore some specific ways to do so that won’t have you (or your students) tearing your hair out. We’ll delve into providing choice for students based on their interests and learning styles; and we’ll also think about how to assess where students are in terms of skill and content readiness – AND how to use those assessments to inform some differentiated instruction. I promise – we’ll work on some great stuff that you can take right into your classroom with you the very next week to try out!

So, join me! I’m Liz Bettencourt and my workshop is during Session 2 in the afternoon, from 1:25 – 3:25 p.m. and is called Reaching All Students: The Differentiated Classroom. I’ll see you then!


Thinking of registering for JFNT? Register here.

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!


Why Won’t You Go to Just for New Teachers This Year?


So you just got a flyer for the MTA’s Just For New Teachers Conference on November 19 hosted by the New Member Committee. Now what? Why won’t you go?!

Are you concerned about the content of the workshops offered?

Don’t be! There is a plethora of workshops to choose from for all new educators. You can choose to attend a workshop on anything from technology to classroom management to dealing with students with trauma. The workshops also range in content area and level. In addition, we are putting on an entertaining panel discussion full of teachers who will be talking about their experiences in education.


Are you concern about the cost?

It’s actually only $65 and that covers breakfast snacks, lunch, and all the workshops! That’s a bargain when it comes to full day conferences! Still concerned? Remember that $65 is like a mediocre dinner for two or a pair of sneakers you’ll never wear or something else not worth the $65 you spent on it. So put your money to better use by coming to this conference. Still concerned? Since this conference covers part of your district’s responsibility to provide new teachers with 50 hours of mentoring beyond the induction year, you could even ask around at your local and they might reimburse you for the cost. Give it a try! No promises, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Even better, JFNT is free if you are a member of SEAM!


Are you concern that it’s on a Saturday?

We used to hold this conference on a Friday, but many new teachers don’t like missing a day of school. So now you don’t have to worry about leaving sub plans! Also, you can bring a bunch of your new educator friends from all over the state since you know they’ll be available. Everyone in their first 5 years of teaching will be able take something away from this conference.


It’s easy to get to since JFNT is at Worcester Technical High School this year. Worcester is a nice central location. Well it’s definitely easier to get to than having to drive to Western MA from the Boston area (or the other way around which I am VERY familiar with…).


As an added bonus, we are putting on a book swap! Bring your books related to professional practice and you can pick up a new book.


Going to the Just For New Teachers conference is a great way to connect with other new educators just like you around the state. I always appreciated the reassurance that I am not alone in the overwhelming tornado that is being a new teacher.


Here is the link to register right now: http://www.cvent.com/events/2016-mta-just-for-new-teachers-conference/event-summary-e0eca911a83c416aa70fede2e33ccfcc.aspx


So, why won’t you go to JFNT? What’s your excuse now?


Post written by NMC member Kathryn Procter

You can follow Kathryn on Twitter: @señoraprocter

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!

Joining Us for Summer Conference? Here’s What to Expect!



Summer conference is like teacher summer camp. It is a great chance to network with other teachers across Massachusetts and to learn more about the benefits of union membership. I first attended summer conference two years ago as part of the New Member Program. One of the aspects I enjoyed most about the five days was sharing my story of how I got into education and hearing the stories of others. I had just finished my first year of teaching and in that year I found that I mostly talked about what was going on at school. Sometimes, I felt like I was boring my friends who were not in education by always telling them stories– like the time a seventh grade student ate paper in class! During the New Member Program, it was wonderful to be surrounded by people who were also interested in discussing lesson plans or how to build rapport with students while enjoying wine at one of the many social events. So with summer conference being less than two weeks away here are some things to keep in mind before coming to Amherst.

What to Bring:

If you are part of the New Member Program you will most likely be staying in the North Residence Halls, which are suite-style housing.  They are also air conditioned, so you do not need to bring a fan with you!

You are provided with a linen pack including two flat sheets, a pillow and case, two towels and a blanket. To be honest, I am picky about sheets and blankets, so I always bring my own. If you’d feel more comfortable in your own sheets, bring them! Many people bring their own pillow as well. Also, make sure your bring your own toiletries.

As for clothes, summer conference if on the more casual side. Jeans, shorts and t-shits or casual sundresses are fine to wear. Keep in mind that some events, like the opening day picnic on Monday, are outside. Many other sessions are inside and if you get cold because of the air conditioning, it might be a good idea to bring a sweater or sweatshirt.

Social Events:

One of the best parts about summer conference are the many social events sponsored by different committees of the MTA. Of course the best social events is the New Member Committee Opening Day Dance. This year the dance is on Monday, August 1st (which happens to be the birthday of committee member Jenn Maio). The dance will have a DJ, lawn games and decorations to go with our amazing theme. There will definitely be line dances like “The Wobble” and “Cupid Shuffle” that are always a blast! Earlier on Monday there will be a wine and cheese, which is a great opportunity to get to bond with other members of the program. On Tuesday, there is a social sponsored by the MTA Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Issues Committee and an ice cream party sponsored by MTA ESP Committee & Educators Insurance Agency.

There is also a dance on Tuesday night sponsored by EMAC, the Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee. Wednesday night is the Bash, the last big party of Summer Conference that normally has a band.


If you are part of the New Member Program, then you will be pretty busy during the day on Monday and Wednesday. However, on Tuesday you will have the afternoon off. This is a great chance to attend another workshop, check out things in the area or nap.

In Summary:

  1. Bring what makes you feel comfortable in your dorm room, but know there will be sheets and towels for you to use.
  2. Casual dress is acceptable. Remember that there are a few outdoor activities and the indoor locations are air-conditioned.
  3. Be prepared for a bunch of fun social events that provide you with networking opportunities.

So here is my insider guide to help you get ready for the MTA Summer Conference. Tweet, message, or e-mail us if you have any questions. See you soon!


Post written by Melanie Levine, a New Member Committee Member.

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!


What Every Early-Career Educator Needs to Know About Budgets

7027596629_1b17209fa6So last school year around this time we started to hear rumors about possible upcoming layoffs due to budget issues.  Budget cuts were not at issue, rather it was that our school district’s budget had been functionally level-funded while expenses had increased.

This message was familiar to many of us who had experienced the same situation the year before.

In fact, I can’t think of a year of my career thus far in which layoffs and budget issues weren’t of concern, considering that I began just before the great recession.  I was laid off my first year as the school restructured and rehired only after another teacher transferred to a different school.  My second year, I was bumped out of my science position into math (a license I had originally obtained as a back-up – looks like it worked).  Since then, things have been a lot more stable for me; but I have worked closely with colleagues for whom the yearly “will I still have a job by summer vacation?” question has induced distracting anxiety and outright fear of discontinuity as they attempt to establish careers.

Many would have expected this pattern to dissipate as the national and state economies strengthened in the years following the recession.  And yet, we continue the yearly wonder over whether the budget will hold.

It is within this context that I begin to wonder about the structures and formulas used by local and state governments to determine school funding – and here is my brief, and potentially over-simplified, entrance into the technical details of budgetary basics:

In Massachusetts, our school funding is based on a “foundation budget” – the state determines how much it would cost to run public education in a district for the year based on the size of the overall student population as well as individual demographic subgroups.  Once the foundation budget has been calculated, money comes from a combination of local municipality contributions as a flat-rate percentage of property values and individuals’ collective income plus money from state “Chapter 70” funding to fill in any remaining gap.  In theory, this structure is meant to even out funding between poorer and wealthier districts.

Of course, districts are allowed to contribute additional funds beyond the foundation budget, which places wealthier districts at an advantage when they can add to what is already available.  

Regardless of whether municipalities have contributed additional funds, many districts find it difficult to make their budgets cover all of the educational activities and initiatives required to operate a great public education system.  One must also consider the numerous fluctuations in budget throughout a single school year.  For example: yearly tuition is not refunded to districts for students who return from charters after October, students move into the district who require one-on-one services (with budgetary implications of an additional salary and benefits to pay), students who end up in the unfortunate situation of being homeless find temporary housing in another municipality but must be provided district-funded transportation to their original home district, and students who require services beyond the district’s capacity are provided services outside of but funded by their home district.

Okay, technical details out of the way.

So why should all of this matter to an early-career educator?

For one thing, when budgets are short and staffing positions must be cut those who are newest are let go first.  It can feel awful, arbitrary, and overwhelmingly disruptive, but this has been a general practice in diverse fields of employment for decades under the rationale that those who are newer are less established and will have less disruption in needing to look for a new position.  So, it might be time to think about updating your resume and looking for openings elsewhere.

Additionally, and on a more hopeful note, it doesn’t have to be this way!  Current funding formulations came into existence because people noticed that what existed before was not working and decided to change it.  So if what we have now is no longer working, and we have noticed it, we should change it.

Achieving changes in governmental budgetary formulas can be a tricky process, but there are a lot of people who have done it before, and there are actually some initiatives currently in process to get it done:

  • Ask your local union leadership what you can do: local presidents know about the local government, as well as who represents your district in statewide government.  They can help you figure out who to contact to express concern with school budgets.
  • Get in touch with Massachusetts Teachers Association: there are many staff members in the MTA who focus on just this sort of thing and can point you in the right direction if you’re looking to get involved.
  • Contact your state Representative and Senator: Google it using your address and you can find out who represents you in state government.  The point is that they represent YOU and should be guided by what YOU want/need.
  • Learn about Raise Up Massachusetts and the proposed Constitutional Amendment to create a 4% tax on all income over $1 million; the proposed amendment specifies that these additional funds would be used largely to support public education in Massachusetts.  In fact, this is on the docket for consideration in statewide constitutional convention later this spring – this would be a great topic to address when you contact your state legislators!

Ultimately, the reality of working in public education indicates that we are beholden to budgets.  It would be great if this was not the case, but alas it is.  So, it helps to understand the reality in which we work; but, it can be equally, if not even more, helpful to think about how these structures can be changed for the better so that we may be the best educators possible within the best public education systems possible.


Post written by Laura Vago, a New Member Committee Member and 7th grade Science teacher in Malden, MA.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LRVago

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!

Michael’s Space: A High School Teacher Reflects on Setting Up His Classroom

“This is going to be your classroom next year.”

My mind went in overdrive when I first heard this. My own classroom. Here. In this room. No more traveling. A place to decorate. A space to create.

How should I make it? How can it be set up?

The room itself is on the smaller side. With the 26 desks in rows (as I had seen it), there was just enough room to walk. But that is not how I planned to set it up anyway. It felt way too cluttered. Plus rows are not really my style.

But what is my style? Small groups? Horse shoe? Facing each other? How could I best use the space? How could I make it mine? Ahh!

Feeling a bit lost as I was thinking about it, I decided that the only logical way to set it up was by a replica and test out seating patterns. It just seemed to make more sense. Besides, how often do you get to make a diorama. With my decision made, I went to the school with a measuring tape not only to get the room measurements, but to measure the seats and door too!

After creating my model, I decided that I did not want just one room set up. But really needed a few. With the, I created 3 different major formations.

Formation 1

Formation 1

Formation 1 is my main formation. While all are facing forward (towards the door), this easily allows students to work independently or in a small group (across). This allows for plenty of space to move about the class.

Formation 2

Formation 2

Formation 2 is set up for cooperative grouping. When making groups, I do try to ensure that they are with students from around the room – to vary the people they work with than simply those who sit near them.

Formation 3

Formation 3

Formation 3 is for testing. You can see the issue with spacing. This is how the room was initially set up.

There are also a handful of miscellaneous formations for debates and trials, but they get lumped into variations of Formation 4.

By the end of the second week, students become familiar with the different formations and can rearrange the room in about 2 minutes – which gives me flexibility to use a variety of them in the same period.

Formation 1 TVFormation 1 Yellow Wall

Above is a look at my classroom today! Literally this morning! This is Formation 1. Ideally you can see that there is space to move about.

With this, I’ll point out two things.

  1. In the front of the classroom is a rather large television. Instead of a projector, last year I was given a TV for the front of my classroom. As we are a 1:1 iPad school, I connect to it through an Apple TV. This makes it easy to project via my or my students iPads – or by using my MacBook Pro. This has been a rather neat set up and my students have been happy at the resolution. We’ve been able to examine artwork like we never could using the screen.
  2. Last week, I painted an accent wall! This has made my room pop with colors. It also provides a neat background for the posters that I made this past year – here is a link to more of my silly digital creations. [There is also space for a contest that I will be running for students to design their own digitally altered images, but that’s for another day.]

So that is my space! It’s always developing as I do.


Post written by New Member Committee Member Michael Milton

You can follow Michael on Twitter: @42ThinkDeep

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!

Tips for Setting Up Your Elementary Classroom

Ah, the last week of August. While to many this means one last vacation before summer ends, trips to the beach, and evenings at the local ice cream place, it usually means only one thing for teachers: time to go set up the classroom!

As a second grade teacher, it can be a bit of a daunting task: go to my classroom that has been packed into it’s drab, “summer” mode, and transform it back to a colorful, warm, and welcoming place. Since this September 1st also signals the arrival of 21 seven and eight-year-olds, it also means organization and structure are key. My students thrive on routine, so it’s important to establish my expectations early to avoid chaos. (Well, as little chaos as is possible with a room full of second graders!)

Here are some steps I take to ensure my students (as well as myself!) stay organized.

  1. Have a “Mission Control”, or central location your students can easily access.  

When my students first arrive in the morning, they are expected to do several things on their own. This includes handing in homework, making a lunch choice (which at the elementary level, can be a BIG DEAL), reading the Morning Message, taking a chair to his/her desk, and beginning Morning Work. While this sounds like a lot, it is definitely possible! This year, I dedicated an entire bulletin board for homework and lunch to avoid any confusion. That way, it is simple for my students to put their homework in the correct bin, use the lunch menu to figure out what they will eat, and put the “bug” in the correct box. Our daily schedule is also located on this board, making it easy for my students to reference throughout the day.

photo 1

  1.  Keep those “bees” busy – embrace classroom jobs.

So yes, I am one of those teachers that does a classroom theme, and my theme is bugs. As a result, my students can check their “bee” to see what job they have! Teachers can vary on how they like to establish classroom jobs – you will have to pick the way that works best for you! I prefer to give all my students a classroom job, and I purposely pick ones that can help make my own day easier. This year I am also trying something new by having my students “apply” for the job they want, which is why my bees are not on the board yet. (If you are interested in doing this yourself, you can access my classroom job application here).

photo 2

By assigning some of the smaller classroom tasks to my students, I can focus on what’s most important – TEACHING! Some of the jobs I have are: “Paper Passers” (to hand out assignments), “Postmasters” (who put corrected papers and notices into the students’ mailboxes), “Librarians”, “Floor Inspectors” and “Chair Stackers”, just to name a few! The favorite of most of my students is “Operator”. That student gets to answer the classroom phone when it rings if I am too busy to answer it myself!

  1. Label…EVERYTHING!

As teachers, we know buying classroom supplies usually comes out of our own pockets, and it can get expensive quickly. However, the one purchase I allow myself to make each year is to buy mailing labels. I print an entire sheet for one student, and use them throughout the year to label whatever needs to be labeled! This includes student mailboxes, subject folders, notebooks, pencil cases, our handwriting book, and a lot more items I am probably forgetting! Nothing wastes class time more than having the teacher hold up an item and say, “Whose is this?!?!”

photo 3

  1. Take time to establish routine and expectations…as much as you need!

Now that the classroom itself is organized and ready, it’s time to start thinking about getting my students ready as well! I take at least the first 3-4 days of school just to establish classroom routines and expectations. I need to teach my students how to make a lunch choice using that board, how to hand in homework in the correct bins, how to carry a chair safely, how to fill out a homework log, how to do each classroom job. This takes a LOT of time, and repetition is crucial. If there is ever a point my students forget or fail to follow a certain routine, we will spend some time practicing again! Once the students pick up the basics, it becomes easy for us as a class community to transition into academic learning.

Those hot and humid days I spent sweating in the classroom will no doubt pay off once the school year begins. Each new year begins with excitement, and I’m looking forward to seeing the smiling faces of my students soon! Now that I’m all organized and ready to go…who wants ice cream?!?


Post written by New Member Committee member Jessica Rosenthal

You can follow Jessica on Twitter: @JessMorningstar

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!

Marketing Yourself: A New Educator’s Guide to Searching for a Job

Business challenge isolated on white

It’s that time of year again.  You have been working in your school district and you are grappling with the decision: Do I stay or do I go?

Fitting in with a school system is no easy task.  Not everyone finds their first teaching job and says, “This is where I am going to retire in 40 years.”  It may take one or two tries to find that school system that really matches up with your values and philosophy of education.


In today’s job market, having a license may not be enough.  If you are looking for another job, you are competing with:

  • Groups of eager and fresh-faced undergrads that are finishing up their student teaching THAT JUST WANT A JOB
  • Teachers who may have a couple of years experience, but have been laid off due to budget cuts
  • Teachers like you who may just want to leave their district
  • Teachers finishing up their Master’s Degree that started directly after undergrad

There’s a lot that goes in to “Marketing Yourself” for a new position.  First step is to look!


I know it may have been a couple of years, but where do you search?  When do you search? Think back to how you got your first job.  Did you find it in the newspaper?  On a Website?  Nowadays with school systems they are more apt to post on the World Wide Web. There are a couple of different choices to choose from for search engines:

School Spring

School Spring is probably my favorite search engine to use for teaching jobs.  Most Massachusetts Districts use it, its very user friendly, and after putting a lot of effort and time into making your application, applying for jobs can be a breeze.

When you go on to the website for the first time, you make a profile.  Then you set up your application for districts to look at when you apply.  You need A LOT of information for the application: College transcripts, letters of recommendation (either uploaded by the recommender or uploaded by you), experience of teaching, MTEL results, certifications etc.  Pretty much everything your resume says, but in different sections…And then you upload your resume as well.  Once you have everything you’re ready to search.  You can personalize a search and have emails sent weekly to your inbox regarding your personalized search.

To apply for a job, you click apply, write a cover letter regarding the job, select your recommendations to be included, and boom, you’ve applied.  Your cover letter should be personalized, as this shows you actually took the time to research the district and what it has to offer.


K12 Jobspot is similar to School Spring, but different school districts use this.  It is a little bit more labor intensive than School Spring (sometimes includes essays to write) but similarly to School Spring, saves all your information so you don’t have to write everything up more than once.  The essays may change district to district, so keep that in mind when writing them.  It also might be helpful to save an essay to word, because it might show up as a question for another school district.


This site is run by the state of Massachusetts, and a good amount of jobs are posted.  Make sure you set up an ELAR (or remember your profile) when applying for jobs, as you can’t see the job openings until you are signed in.


When you first find the jobs page, it asks that you log in, but you do not have to be a member to view the open job list.  This list is again, only for Massachusetts.  This is a site where it may be possible that you need to apply elsewhere or send your information elsewhere, not necessarily through the site.

AISNE.org or Carneysandoe.com

It may be possible you are taking the private school approach, and there’s a website for that.  AISNE is the Association for Independent Schools of New England.  They have many opportunities that also go beyond teaching duties as well.  Many of the independent schools are located in the New England area, so it is not too far.  Carney Sandoe and Associates is a little bit different.  You work with a team for placement, kind of related to a temp agency.  They work with employers and prospective job companies to find the right matches for the private school. They’re kind of like mediators of private schools.

Other Job Search Engines:

  • Monster.com
  • CareerBuilder.com
  • Craigslist.com
  • Indeed.com

These sites periodically have job openings in the k-12 market.  This can be helpful, and it may be possible districts will use these sites over others, possibly for cost purposes.

For jobs in higher education, check out: http://main.hercjobs.org/jobs


In education, networking is key.  Do you know someone who is in education?  Teachers? Professors? Coaches?  Any connection is some connection.  It is possible they know what jobs are going to be available before they are posted.  They can also put in a good word with someone so your resume climbs to the top of the list.  Sounds crazy, but connections can be important in getting a new job.  For example, I had a co-worker who got hired in another district, and she was able to put in a good word for me with the principal so I was interviewed and offered a job within three days.  They went looking through my application of 100 other applicants.  Personal connections can be very helpful.

Even though it is the summer, many districts do not rest until positions are filled.  So look now!  There are hundreds of positions posted everyday.  Positions will close and open up as the summer goes on, so do not be afraid to check often.  The sooner your application is in, the better.


Post written by New Member Committee member Erinne Wortham.

You can follow Erinne on Twitter: @SciencewithMsW

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!