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president's perspective

Using your voice in the classroom

New York Teacher

Michael Mulgrew Headshot 07-19

Michael Mulgrew, UFT President

No one understands the needs of educators better than educators themselves. That’s why we fought so hard to give members a voice in their schools and in the design of their own professional learning, effectively reversing years of being shut out by the previous administration.

Now with the new school year underway and the new contract in place, UFT members are finally in a position to do this important work.

Across the five boroughs, teachers are beginning to use their professional learning time to fundamentally improve their working conditions and their students’ learning environment. What’s more, this learning is being developed collaboratively by administrators and teachers based on their own needs, making it relevant and meaningful.

I had the opportunity to watch teachers and administrators at PS 295 in Brooklyn engage in professional learning by breaking into small groups to identify their collective needs and then sharing their skills and knowledge with each other. [See “PD like it ought to be”.] It was obvious from these conversations that given the chance to be creative inside their classrooms, and with real support, there was no challenge that these educators could not tackle.

Down the hall, I came across a small group of teachers and paraprofessionals huddled together in the cafeteria. They were discussing their students’ IEPs and how to better provide the services that their students need, sharing their notes about what they are doing and what they could be doing. It was clear that by participating in this simple conversation, these educators were having breakthroughs that would not only benefit their students but also improve their own craft. That’s what makes this work so fulfilling.

Our challenge now is to make sure this kind of meaningful work takes place in every school. The success of this effort will largely depend on the initiative each of us takes in our individual schools.

We recently conducted a survey on contract implementation in which 88 percent of the chapter leaders who responded said that their schools had formed professional development committees.

If you are interested in joining the professional development committee in your school, or if your school has yet to form a committee, please reach out to your chapter leader as soon as possible.

Likewise, if your school community is struggling to find a way forward under the provisions of the new contract, please let us know. We are here to help and can send a team to your school to make sure you have what you need.

In the meantime, we are also building a repository of resources for you to use. The UFT Teacher Center has begun to prepare model sessions that you can see in the new Professional Development Resources section of the UFT website. Please use them if you need help getting started and feel free to tailor them to your school’s own unique needs.

If your school has designed professional learning sessions or has ideas that you believe other schools would benefit from, please share them with us. We will post useful modules on our website so that other schools can take advantage of your ideas.

A lot is riding on the success of our contract, including the changes to professional development. If we can make it work, we will show both our colleagues and critics across the country what public school educators — given the proper support and time to work together — can do.


Paperwork reduction

The UFT scored a major victory with our recent agreement with the Department of Education on paperwork reduction. A joint UFT/DOE paperwork committee recently completed negotiations on a new set of standards that will reduce — and in some cases eliminate — unnecessary paperwork in the schools.

Keep in mind that these are only initial standards; the joint committee will continue to meet and additional standards to further reduce paperwork will be forthcoming. New rules in our contract also provide for dedicated time for us to complete the necessary paperwork that remains.

If you see or hear about violations of these guidelines, please let us know as soon as possible.