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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

April 20 EBulletin

Updated: May 3, 2020

COVID-19 Update April 20

I appreciate that, once again, so many of you--1,150--took the survey we sent out last week. I spent a good many hours poring over the results, looking at them from every which way.

Here is some of what I have read:

You are dealing with great hardship. Most of you are struggling to maintain the balance between life and work. Those of you who have children find this challenge particularly acute, but it is clear that the stress of working from home creates tension that is palpable for everyone. 

Everything is harder: Working remotely is harder; grocery shopping is harder; caring for yourselves and your loved ones is harder; communicating with colleagues is harder; planning and collaboration is harder, almost overwhelming; not letting students slip through the cracks is harder. Everything is just harder.

You are sick to death of your computer screen and your not-so-easy-chair and having too much to do coming at you all the time.

You're worrying is most often addressed to others. You continue to worry that your most vulnerable students will fall behind; that a relative will become ill; that you will become ill and not be able to care for all of those who depend on you.

And some of you have become ill with COVID-19, and some of you have lost loved ones to COVID-19. How do you get well, and how do you grieve, when so much is expected of you, when your days are so uninterruptedly crowded, when you are so overburdened?

You are inordinately hard on yourselves.While twenty to twenty five percent of you worry that parents or administrators expect too much of you, over half of you worry you expect too much of yourselves. 

There is inequity in how the hardship is distributed, and some of you are carrying more of the burden than others--which isn't to say that all are carry too much.

Parents of young children find the lack of work/life boundaries most difficult to navigate.

Administrators feel the burden of leadership...that there just isn't any alternative but to plow ahead, even as you worry that you can't go on. But you feel too much of the success of the distance learning plan depends on you. If we are all inordinately hard on ourselves, well, on this score, you win the the prize. (You really have to be careful about this, and know when, and how, where to ask for help, to say "I can't.")

ELL teachers worry not only if your students can access the curriculum, but whether your students' families can even cope with this emergency. 

Aides and BT's wonder when and how you will be involved with your students, not knowing what your role will be, or if even you will have one. And many of you worry if you will be employed in summer school this year--income you depend on, because you earn so little. Every income loss is an acute when you are just getting by.

Technical Support Professionals and Instructional Technology Specialists are on the frontlines of an instructional technology system that was built to support education, not be its primary vehicle. How do you make all of this work when, even before the schools closed, you were already understaffed?

Special education teachers at all levels say you are feeling overwhelmed. Apart from your worry and work with your students and their families, you are feeling overburdened by the paperwork and documentation requirements--and your sense that someone, somewhere, has not gotten the message that you simply cannot provide the same services you provided while we were still in school, and that documenting everything you do means you can do less.

Moreover, you ask if providing the direct services on your students' IEPs is always what your students need most right now, since your students and their families struggle with the executive functioning skills needed to access distance learning. You worry that this struggle will defeat them, and this will in turn take a terrible emotional toll on them.

You want, and try, to be responsive to your students' needs, and to all that is being expected of you, but you feel torn, tired and overburdened--and this takes an terrible emotional toll on you.

There will be continue to be much talk, and much writing, in the press, and among some parents, and some educators, about what MORE we can or should be doing.

What I hear, listening to you, is that there needs to be more talk, and more thought, about just how hard this is for all of us, how hard we are working to even make this work as well as it does.

Why are you so hard on yourselves? Because you know better than anyone know that what we're doing now is not good enough---how could it be otherwise, when you compare what you are doing now with what you and your students used to do every single day in the classroom?

You also know better than anyone that this is a false comparison. Of course, you can't help making it. Still, it's bad enough that you aren't fair on yourselves. You need the rest of the world to not hold you to this false standard, to be fair to you, to recognize just how hard this is. 

It has been a long five weeks, and the last two weeks have seemed unendingly long, and exhaustingly hard--that is some of what you have communicated, with passion and pain, in this most recent survey.

Thank you. As always, I feel privileged to listen to you.

The Massachusetts Child, MTA’s Charitable Organization, Makes Available Emergency Funds.

The Massachusetts Child Fund is making available approximately $4,000 in additional funding to the Newton Teachers Association to support enrichment and educational materials for students in need.

Their intent is to help educators stay connected with students while our schools remain closed. Perhaps you can send students in need a few books that you think they would enjoy. Or maybe there is a student who would take on a learning project if given the necessary supplies.

The Mass Child cannot reimburse the cost of electronics such as Chromebooks and iPads or any other materials that are the responsibility of the district.

You can apply directly to Mass Child electronically. They have set up an electronic application form on the Mass Child page of the MTA website. When you submit your request for reimbursement, you will be asked if you have your local president's approval, and that's to protect you. We will be keeping track of requests so that we know when we have used up all of our grant money.

So, before you make a purchase contact Chris Walsh at with 1) the items you plan to purchase, and 2) approximate cost. We will then be able to let you know whether or not your proposed purchase will be reimbursed before you have spent the money yourself.

MTA Annual Meeting.

The MTA will hold a virtual annual meeting on Saturday, May 2, from 9:00 a.m. until about noon. 

The agenda includes:

  • Voting on the MTA budget for the coming fiscal year

  • Conducting elections for President, Vice President, Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, and the Retired Members Committee

  • Presenting an Issues Forum on the MTA All In Blueprint Project

  • Recognizing outstanding educators, students and education allies

TheNTAalready finished its nomination period for delegates to the annual meeting. We did not fill our quota of delegates, so if you would like to attend the annual meeting, you may still do so simply by letting me know.We will fill delegate slots first come first served until such time as we fill our quota.

Since this is such a topsy turvy year, even if you have already submitted nomination papers or let me know by email that you intend to attend, could you confirm by emailing me that you still will attend the MTA annual meeting? Just include "I would like to attend MTA Annual Meeting" in the subject line.

The same if you have not yet expressed an interest in attending the annual meeting, but would like to: just send me an email, and type "I would like to attend the MTA Annual Meeting" in the subject line. I will make sure you are registered.

The hard deadline is April 27. After that date, we can no longer register you as a delegate.

Thank you for reading.

"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."

Please take care and stay well.



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