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!


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!

Why You Should Attend the MTA Annual Meeting on May 8th and 9th

I had no idea what the MTA Annual Meeting was until about a year ago. Now that I know what it is, I think everyone should go to it.


What Annual Meeting is: It is an assembly of all the delegates from every MTA school district for regular and higher eduction around the state who get together and vote on newly proposed bylaws and budgets as well as elect MTA officials.

How it works: Every district in MA gets to send delegates to go to Annual Meeting held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. The dates are usually the Friday and Saturday before Mother’s Day. Last year after I checked in early on Friday,and then I sat in my regional section in the convention center. I made some good friends those two days with people who live in my area (shout out to West Mass!)

Once everyone was settled in, then I heard some speeches: the 2014 Teacher of the Year Anne Marie Osheyack, MTA President Paul Toner, Senator Edward Markey, and even Senator Elizabeth Warren made an appearance in a prerecorded video after she received the Friend of Labor. Kathleen Roberts, Louise Gaskins, and Mary Gilmore all received the Friend of Education Award for their long term commitment to activism. The rest of the agenda was designated to discussing the proposed bylaw, budget changes, and new business. That’s where the real fun began!

All of the discussions had to follow Robert’s rules of Order (parliamentary procedure). That means that there were 3 different colored cards at 6 different microphones throughout the convention center. Those big cards were designated for asking questions, talking to a point, or making a point of personal privilege. Everyone had 3 minutes to talk while the projection of the speakers and their time left were shown on the big screens in front.

I was most intrigued by the process and procedure of how all of the motions move along and how the voting gets done, making motions and seconding everything. I thankfully sat next to a woman in my district who had been going every year for at least 15 years, so she knew her way around. She was helpful in explaining some of the more complicated motions. Since I knew nothing about the annual meeting or the procedure, everything was interesting to me.   Also important at the meeting was the fact that we got to vote in 2014 on our leaders of the MTA, President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson.

As a newbie at Annual Meeting, I took everything in as a learning experience and just sat back to observe everything. What a crew of characters! During the down times and breaks I also really enjoyed the booths in the lobby that were giving away lots of teacher swag. I loaded up on about 2 pounds of free pens and pencils, two reusable shopping bags, a stress ball, notepads, candy, a toothbrush, and $10 worth of Dunkin Donuts gift cards. Be sure to stop by the New Member Program table when you go! We’ll be giving out information about being a participant in our program and many other workshops at Summer Conference 2015.

How to be a delegate: Ask your local building rep union or president! My district pays for 10 delegates to go (that includes an overnight stay in Boston and a $200 food, gas, and toll allowance), but not all districts pay the same way or amount so ask at your local.

I look forward to seeing you at the 170th Annual Meeting of Delegates on Friday, May 8 and Saturday May 9, 2015!

If you want more information, you can follow along on Twitter #MTAAM or check out MTA’s website: http://massteacher.org/news/conferences/annual.aspx


Post written by MTA New Member Committee Member Kathryn Procter.

You can follow Kathryn on Twitter: @senoraprocter

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

A High School Teacher’s Experience with Keeping the Pace after Snow Days

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 1.25.01 PM

With February break approaching and the school days dwindling due to the onslaught of snow, I had to figure out how to get to a natural stopping point on the Friday before break. I do hate to end for an extended period of time on a cliffhanger.  I debated speaking at twice my normal rate and cutting out a few activities, but that seemed rather tedious and dreadfully boring.  “There’s got to be a way,” I thought as I watched the snow continue to drop out of the sky.

As I continued to ponder, I came across a video that I had made two years prior when I had to miss class for a Student Council meeting. To ensure that all of my classes were around the same point, I recorded a brief lecture that my students watched and responded to in class. The video began with a “Do Now” to get the students thinking and had a series of questions throughout the presentation. When I returned to class, we discussed their material they had just covered. I decided that I was going utilize the idea of this video lesson to help me find my natural stopping point prior to vacation.

Flipped Classroom is when students listen to lectures outside of class and complete activities based upon those lectures in class. It is an interesting concept of which a few of my colleagues are advocates. As I am in the Social Studies realm, I have heard of Massachusetts middle school teacher Elizabeth Miller’s experience flipping her classroom and I wanted to try it out. By flipping one of my lectures, I would be able to complete the week with an active lesson!

To do this, I tried out both Explain Everything , an iPad app, and Snagit, a Chrome extension and app. With Explain Everything, explain everything was relatively easy to use. I converted a presentation to PowerPoint and loaded it to Explain Everything. I then recorded and sent the video directly to Youtube. While I was going to do this for the next lecture, it could not play videos from Youtube. I sought out suggestions from my education friends on Twitter and a fellow high school history teacher recommended Snagit (Snagit is also a free Google Chrome App and Extension – you need both). Snagit works on my desktop and could record Youtube videos. It also allowed me to use Google Slides similarly to the way I use them in class. (I’ve also utilized QuickTime for Screencasts, but wanted to try out some new toys for this.)

Today, I assigned one of the lectures to my students to have completed by Friday. This way, they have plenty of time to watch them at school if they would like.

In the future, I am going to keep this in mind as an option and possibly may use these vides to help students who were not in class.

Want to see a Screencast in action? Watch the video below!


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!

Another Snow Day?: A Middle School Teacher’s Reflections on Lesson Planning and the Effects on Students


“Hello, this is the superintendent’s office of the Malden public schools.  There will be no school tomorrow, Tuesday, February…”  Wait… is this a broken record?  Didn’t I just get this phone call yesterday?  And last week – twice?  And the week before last for four days in a row?

This year has been incredible for snow days.

Truth is, though, I absolutely love snow.  I still get giddy with excitement when there is the prediction of a big snow storm coming, and I look forward to watching through my windows as the snow falls, to going out to take walks and pictures in the snow. So, despite the number of days off and the sheer volume of snow, I have been rather content.

Then I think of the impact it all has on my professional life.

Of course, a few days of extra time off can be great for catching up on grading or lesson planning.  However…

The school where I teach runs on a 4-day rotation schedule.  Every odd-numbered day has 65-minute core class blocks, while even-numbered days have 55 minute blocks.  So every time we miss school, I have to go back to my plan book to figure out how my lessons can be adapted to different class lengths.  Sometimes this is easy – the 10-minute quiz that would have been given at the end of class on Tuesday can instead be tacked onto the end of Wednesday’s class.  Sometimes it is really tricky.  I like to schedule laboratory activities to fit into the longer blocks to allow as much time as possible for exploration and inquiry.  When snow days interrupt the schedule it interferes with this timing and I have to get creative to figure out how to fit the activities into shorter amounts of time without throwing off the rest of my planning (I like to plan two to three weeks in advance).

Another complicating factor is the amount of review that must be done to help kids remember the foundational knowledge they have built, especially after a long string of time off as we had last week.  Ultimately, it is not difficult to ask a few questions to help kids remember what we worked on before the disruption, but the time for these questions must be carved out of a lesson that I have already planned down to the minute; I have to prioritize and decide what can be cut to make space.

Finally, and perhaps most frustratingly, is to think about how the weather impacts my students.  Two of my students did not come to school Wednesday and Thursday of last week; we got a message from the assistant principal informing us that their parents said that they could not walk through the snow to school because of a lack of proper footwear.  So they missed even more time due to the weather.  I know, also, how many of the students look forward to and appreciate coming to school because of the safety and security they feel from the daily routine, the adults with whom they interact, and from their friends.  I know that for many of them the additional time away from school can be emotionally stressful.

In the end, I do enjoy snow and snow days – I really can’t see that ever changing.  But, I temper my happiness some in consideration of the full picture of what they mean.  I am not sure what the solution is to these problems – after all, it is winter in New England and there will be snow.  However, it is a subject that demands consideration, especially with the prospect of climate change increasing the strength of snowstorms going forward (I had to drop that in!  Science teacher obligation).


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

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LRVago

So Many Snow Days: An Elementary School Teacher’s Perspective on Routines and Patience


Since when do teachers get tired of snow days? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but now that I’ve had my fifth snow day in two weeks, I am officially sick of them! (Knowing that this puts our last day of school as June 25th isn’t helping matters either!) While my students may enjoy these days immensely, these frequent days off definitely cause some major disruptions to our learning. When we do finally get back to school, it’s important to stay on schedule. Despite the size of the snow piles outside, there is still curriculum to teach and deadlines to meet. So how do I keep my second graders focused and engaged? Two ways: routine and patience.

Routine is important for children at all ages, but especially so at the elementary level. My students thrive on it. I spend so much time the first few weeks of school establishing routines. It seems silly, going over in detail things such as how to make a lunch choice, how to line up at the door quietly, how to do classroom jobs, and how to carry chairs safely in the classroom. Once we master the basics, we start practicing more difficult tasks: how to fill out a homework log, how to hand in homework, how to do independent work, how to work with a partner, and how to work with a small group. Everything is modeled, practiced, modeled again, and practiced again. If there is ever a point in the year that I feel my students are no longer successful at these tasks, we take a step back and start the modeling and practicing all over again. And you know what? It works! This is the point in the year that I begin to notice how much our established routines are helping to facilitate learning. Transition times are down, and my students understand my expectations. There might not be school Monday, but when my students arrive on Tuesday, they will know that we will begin our day with morning work, have morning meeting, and then continue our biography unit.

While routine is key, there are times when unfortunately, our schedule needs to change. Take last week for example. We had two snow days in a row, giving us only a three day week. I teach spelling to my class on a weekly basis. Usually, the pattern is introduced on Monday, practiced throughout the week, and tested on Friday. Three days did not seem like a sufficient amount of time to allow my students to learn their words, so I decided not to have spelling last week. In the eyes of seven and eight year olds, this decision is of monumental proportions…probably just as exciting as winning the lottery, if not better. This is when patience comes into play. I made it clear to my students why were are not studying spelling that week, gave frequent reminders (sometimes several times a day), and reminded myself to take a few deep breaths when my students still asked on Friday, “Hey, why aren’t we taking a spelling test?” I’ve changed their routine, and it’s hard for them to adjust. Patience, patience.

So now I sit, watching the snow continue to come down, and wonder what routines I will need to alter this week, and wonder how much patience we will all need to have to adjust accordingly. For now, I will have to maintain my own snow day routine: shovel, rest, repeat!


Post written by MTA New Member Committee Member Jessica Rosenthal.

Jessica teaches second grade in Stoughton, MA. You can read more about Jessica’s experiences as a second grade teacher by visiting her blog “Saving the World One Second Grader at a Time”

Follow Jessica on Twitter: @JessMorningstar

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