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Rolling out the welcome mat

New York Teacher

It’s September again.

As in all the Septembers before, thousands of new educators have accepted the challenge to make a difference in the lives of New York City’s public school children. We welcome all new educators and school professionals — and seasoned veterans as well! — to a new school year in the nation’s largest and most diverse school system.

To ease the stress and anxiety for first-year teachers, the UFT provided an early lifeline. During DOE New Teacher Week in late August, 1,000 new teachers attended UFT-organized information sessions, got advice from experienced teachers and signed up for union membership and for professional workshops held throughout the week in the union’s four borough offices. They also had a chance to network over coffee and lunch.

At union headquarters on the Monday morning kickoff to New Teacher Week, I reassured the new teachers that the UFT is here to support each teacher beginning this journey. We’ve got your backs and will be with you all the way.

Like so many first-time teachers, Jianhiran Lin, who is teaching math at PS 238 in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, was both “excited and afraid” as that first day loomed. So she grabbed our lifeline. “I registered for the workshop on Class Routines and Management to help me as a teacher,” she said, “and I signed a UFT membership card to support teachers’ rights and voice.”

I was delighted to see the crowds spilling out of the room designated for union membership sign-up and to hear the new teachers’ stories.

“I chose this profession because I know how much the union does for teachers and the great contracts and benefits it provides,” Jamal Stovall said as he left the room. He is teaching physics at Brooklyn’s New Utrecht HS this fall after serving in the Army for four years.

We want to embrace all students by creating classrooms where they feel safe and respected and where they will be nurtured and challenged to become lifelong learners. We want to see them without labels and demographics and to think beyond those lenses to the possibilities these young people have. And our students need to see us as caring, capable teachers they can respect and trust.

We must also embrace parents and the community. It takes all these constituents to help us effectively do our job as teachers.

Our classrooms must always be about winners. That’s what motivates Bixia Chen, who came to this country from China nine years ago and is teaching 8th-grade math at MS 77 in Ridgewood, Queens, this fall. “I had a teacher who cared about immigrant children,” she explained, “and now I can do the same.” She also signed up as a UFT member because “as a new teacher, I want someone behind me supporting me like a family.”

Ten days before DOE New Teacher Week, we invited new teachers to the union’s book giveaway, where they were able to choose from hundreds of titles. Some 400 new teachers left the Aug. 11 event with bags full of books to start classroom libraries.

We also held open houses in each UFT borough office in the final week of August to introduce new hires in all job titles to the union’s many supports and services.

This fall, we again will offer new members a wide range of professional opportunities at workshops, conferences and reduced-fee graduate degree classes. Learn-UFT and the union’s Member Assistance Program (MAP) will have low-cost classes at convenient times and locations for new teachers to learn important skills and develop a healthy work/life balance.

Having a mentor can be life changing. For first-year teachers who have not been assigned a mentor at school or who would like some extra mentoring, the union has created the Partners through Experience program. It pairs a new teacher with a recent retiree who can provide pedagogical expertise in a confidential and collaborative relationship.

The UFT’s support is not just to help this year’s 5,000 new educators through their early days. Ours is a career-long commitment that extends through retirement for each and every member.

We are union proud and public school proud, committed to helping you succeed and to making this city’s public schools the best in the nation.

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