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New York TeacherOctober 28, 2021

Volume LXIII, Number 2
It's been a year full of challenges and stress in an environment that is still constantly changing. But a return to some of our cherished traditions, such as the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks and Go Pink Day, has moved us a step closer to our way of life before the pandemic.

Cover Story

Michael Mulgrew at a school visit

More challenges ahead

We all know that a great year in this profession can’t happen without its challenges. And this year so far has certainly delivered the challenges.

We are operating in a constantly changing environment. You’re teaching and supporting children while enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing, conducting instructional lunches and navigating partial classroom closures. These changes, while necessary, have imposed themselves on us, our students and our educational practices. And as flexible as we all have been as we adapt to these new circumstances, it has been extremely stressful. …

Latest News

Randi Weingarten
News Stories

Landmark settlement in student debt lawsuit

Public servants, including public school educators and nurses, may be on their way to a reduction or elimination of their crushing burden of debt thanks to a landmark settlement announced Oct. 13 between the U.S. Department of Education and the American Federation of Teachers, which filed a lawsuit in July 2019 alleging mismanagement of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. 

People raising hands with ballots
News Stories

DA votes to endorse Eric Adams for mayor

The UFT is backing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for mayor and other candidates for citywide and borough offices and City Council in the Nov. 2 general election in New York City.

Feature Stories

Boyce reached out to PIP last year for help adjusting to her ICT classroom.

Another assist for PIP

It used to annoy Erica Boyce that her 4th-graders at PS 677 in Brooklyn talked so much in class.

That is, until she learned how to harness that energy.

Boyce, a special education English language arts teacher in an integrated co-teaching classroom, recently led a discussion about American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, who was at the helm of the humanitarian organization for 23 years. Hands shot up in the air as she asked for definitions of “financial” and “resign” and other words in Barton’s story.

Then she tossed out a question that drew the class together.

“Clara Barton took no salary,” Boyce said. “Would you work for no money?”

“No!” the students said in unison.

“I ask questions to make sure they’re listening and asking questions, too,” said Boyce. “They love talking, so I’m going to us…

Flood of caring Bed

Flood of caring for family in need

Teachers and staff at PS 377 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, came together to help a school family that lost everything when their apartment flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

A place to veg out

A place to veg out

For students and teachers at PS 13 on Staten Island, vegetable and meditation gardens proviide not only learning experiences but also a respite from pandemic challenges; a place where both students and staff can get some sun, fresh air and a boost to their social and emotional well-being.

Member Spotlight

Trevor Stokes
Chapter Leader Shoutout

Trevor Stokes, Midwood HS, Brooklyn

Midwood HS Chapter Leader Trevor Stokes used the leverage of the union’s operational issues complaint process to make sure every classroom and office at his school has an air purifier.

Mauri Small
What I Do

Mauri Small, School social worker

Mauri Small is a school social worker at the Williamsburg HS for Architecture and Design in Brooklyn, where she handles all the mandated counseling for students with IEPs as well as crisis intervention and mediation. 

Around the UFT

Regina Dukes (left), the paraprofessional representative at P79 in Manhattan, carries her daughter while she walks with her sister, Georgy Whitfield.

Making Strides for Breast Cancer walks

“It’s a different feeling being here in person,” Antonella Lombardo said at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Oct. 10 in Brooklyn. “It feels wonderful.”

Lombardo, a teacher and the chapter leader at PS 177 in Brooklyn, walked with colleagues in Coney Island to honor a payroll secretary who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. “We’ve been supporting her for a long time,” Lombardo said, as UFT members and their teams mingled around the union’s tent in pink T-shirts and masks.

Mashantuck Bell, the UFT’s Brooklyn walk coordinator and a chapter leader and paraprofessional at IS 364 in that borough, was selling pink UFT tote bags, masks and notepads with her daughter, Lashawn Holmes, a teacher at Brooklyn’s PS 36, before walking in the American Cancer Society’s annual event, a fundraiser for breast cancer research, advocacy and patient services.

“It’s important to be aware and get involved,”…

 Chapter Leader Medina Selmanovic (left) and Principal Maria Guzman stand side by side for breast cancer awareness outside PS 46 in Brooklyn.

Go Pink Day

Because of the disruptions caused by the pandemic in the 2020-21 school year, participating in “Go Pink Day” this year was a hopeful return to a cherished tradition for many UFT members across the city.

Stepping up for victims

CaringKind Alzheimer’s Walk

Nearly two dozen UFT members participated in the union-sponsored CaringKind Alzheimer’s Walk on Oct. 10 in Central Park.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Benefits
Female medical professional looks at x-rays

Cancer care and prevention

The UFT has added a new state-of-the-art tool, the 3D mammogram, to its programs of compassionate support and excellent clinical care for members facing a cancer diagnosis.

Know Your Rights
Rubber gloves, sanitizing and face masks

School safety during the pandemic

The multiple layers of protection against COVID-19, including the vaccination of all staff and eligible students, are serving our school communities well. 

Your Well-being
Embracing education informed by trauma

Helping students with trauma

The pandemic has been traumatic for everyone. That’s why the UFT successfully advocated for more social workers in schools and social-emotional screenings for all students at the end of October. Here are some other tips to achieve a compassionate classroom. 

You Should Know

For Your Information
Lack of Ratings

Lack of ratings won’t affect observations

After weeks of negotiations, the DOE agreed to change its position that the lack of ratings in 2019–20 should be a determining factor in the number and type of observations that teachers are required to have this school year. Any tenured teacher rated Effective for the 2020–21 school year will receive a minimum of two informal observations this year. (As before, members can request a formal observation if they wish, but it is not required.)

For Your Information
gavel

Spring break pay grievance

The dispute between the UFT and the DOE over spring break pay in 2020 will now proceed to arbitration, with a hearing before a neutral arbitrator likely to take place in mid-December.

For Your Information
Generic election vote carousel

Election Day guidance

If school staff were not told by Oct. 15 to report to their school for professional development on Election Day, they will participate in PD remotely.

Q&A on the Issues
Teachers attend a certification class

Certification during COVID-19

Due to the many disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York State Education Department has introduced measures to provide emergency certification and alternative testing options and has extended some deadlines for educators.

Q&A on the Issues
A man getting a COVID shot

COVID-related leaves, absences and quarantines

As UFT members continue to meet the many challenges of this school year, we’ve gathered additional answers to members’ most frequently asked questions about COVID-related absences, remote office hours and other important topics.

Secure Your Future
Coins stacked, buildings at night with lights, graph, charts, stock tickers, blue

Boost retirement with TDA

The Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) program is an excellent way for eligible UFT members to save extra money that will allow them to fully enjoy retirement. They can defer paying federal income taxes on their TDA, which lowers income taxes during their working lifetime.

Opinions

VPerspective
A group of students exercising with their teacher

The benefits of mindfulness

It’s been a stressful year, and the pandemic is still affecting all our lives. Some UFT members have gotten a jump-start on their own social-emotional wellness, with training in mindfulness meditation and yoga they use in their own lives and bring to their students at school.

Editorials
Colored silhouettes with words above

The future of G&T

On Oct. 8, with just three months left in his term, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to phase out the gifted-and-talented program in New York City public schools. But Eric Adams, de Blasio’s likely successor, has ideas about the program that appear to be more in line with ours: It should not be destroyed, Adams said on Oct. 15, but should be retooled and expanded. 

Editorials
A sign reading "Missing"

Our missing children

How many children are missing from our schools? That’s the question the city Department of Education refuses to answer.

Editorial Cartoons
People wearing Halloween costumes and also wearing masks/face coverings. Left to right is Dracula, a witch, a mummy, a devil and a ghost.

Happy Halloween

Enjoy your Halloween weekend! 

Teaching Resources

Learning Curve
A teacher teaching a class

Confronting ‘learning loss’

As early as March 2020, headlines warned of the “learning loss” that students would experience as a result of disrupted and remote schooling. But that phrase misclassifies the real issue and obscures how teachers can best support their students.

Teaching
Woman sitting at a desk typing on a laptop keyboard

Get 30-plus differential credits

The UFT has forged a partnership with CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies and Monroe College to provide affordable professional learning opportunities for mid-career teachers seeking credits towards their 30-plus differential.

Linking to Learning
Story Seeds Podcast

Podcasts for the classroom

Podcasts can be used as a novel way to introduce or reinforce subject matter with our students. For those of us concerned about screen time, podcasts are an antidote, and they help sharpen listening skills, too.

New Teacher Articles
An adult and two students wearing masks, looking at computers

Classroom management a key to student success

Fostering a respectful environment and establishing predictable classroom routines goes a long way toward helping students thrive. But for new and experienced teachers alike, this school year presents fresh challenges to traditional classroom conduct.

Teacher to Teacher
Popcorn, a movie reel and 3d glasses

Including pop culture in the curriculum

Incorporating popular culture in the classroom is a way to make what I am trying to teach immediately more relevant and engaging for my students. In my classroom, “texts” can be lyrics, music videos, films, comics, TV shows, graphic novels or even YouTube videos.

Building Your Career

Inside My Classroom
Diana Garcia, 5th-grade dual language teacher,  PS 145, Brooklyn

Inside my Classroom

As a class, we read the book “Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You,” by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. We learned about how everyone is unique even if you don’t see it.

New Teacher Diaries
I am not a superhero

‘I am not a superhero’

The expectations that society puts on teachers are as old as time, but this year, it’s gone to a whole new level. I knew going into this year we would have our work cut out for us.

Retired Teachers News

Doctor and patient

NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan highlights

More than 7,500 UFT retirees joined a webinar presentation on the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan on Oct. 1. The presentation, organized by the Retired Teachers Chapter, was a refresher for some, an introduction for others and a chance for questions to be answered.

Kim Parker of Empire BlueCross/BlueShield and the account executive for the New York City Medicare Advantage Plus Plan, went over the details of the new plan into which all Medicare-eligible city retirees will be automatically enrolled on Jan. 1, 2022. The opt-out period ended on Oct. 31, but those who missed the deadline can choose to opt out next fall (effective Jan. 1, 2023). Parker announced during the webinar that Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has confirmed its participation in the plan.

Here are some other highlights:

Do not confuse the NYC Medicare Advantage Plu…

Tom Murphy

Tough to communicate

Communication is fraught with miscommunication. Presenting the New York City Medicare Advantage Plus Plan to retirees is tough. We have tried to offer the best and most comprehensive information so retirees can make their own informed choices.

Making fashion cents

Making fashion cents

It started with a bag of used clothing that Bambi Falvo meant to donate. Now Falvo, who retired in 2019 after 32 years of teaching, is an online entrepreneur who specializes in reselling new and used clothing.