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.
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.
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.
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 use…
For students and teachers at PS 13 on Staten Island, vegetable and meditation gardens provide 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Karen Alford writes that 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.