Balloon Animals

Peter Wood

This just in: a sharp-eyed Massachusetts correspondent just alerted me to some of the ways in which teachers in Massachusetts can improve their skills and their professional standing.  Massachusetts awards “professional development points” (PDPs) to teachers who complete approved training sessions.   A teacher receives one PDP for each hour of training and is supposed to earn something on the order of twenty to twenty-five such PDPs every year, and about 120 or so over five years. Teachers need the PDPs for certification and re-certification.

The ever helpful teachers union, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, offers relevant courses for teachers seeking to reach their annual PDP quotas. Time to sharpen their knowledge of Euclidian geometry? Fill in some gaps about what happened during the Jackson administration?   Perhaps learn a little more about how to diagram a sentence?

No, not quite. Here’s our selection of the top ten Massachusetts teachers union professional development offerings: 

Effective Advocacy: Grievance Processing (PDP)
This workshop will focus on how to use the grievance procedure as an orderly process for resolving contract disputes. Participants will be actively engaged in a comprehensive review of the grievance process, from the “what” and “why” to the “how” and “when.” They will leave the session with an understanding of how to write and process grievances in the steps prior to arbitration. The three-hour morning session will focus on procedural and substantive concerns relative to the grievance process and will introduce the filing process. In the one-and-one-halfhour afternoon session, participants will investigate, write up and present grievances.

Lessons through Balloon Twisting (PDP)
There are life lessons to be learned when making a balloon animal, and there may be several academic ones as well. Participants in this workshop will learn to make at least two animals and learn some lessons together.

Union Response to Advanced Placement Grants (PDP)
Has your district applied for an Advanced Placement grant? Will it do so in the future? Did you know that the grants include payments for test scores? This session will provide straight talk about what the AP grants require and strategies on how to best enforce your contract rights.

Easy Tie-Dye (PDP)
Travel back in time to the 1960s and 1970s while creating a groovy tie-dyed T-shirt to awe your friends and family. Mood rings optional. Easy tie-dye methods will be tried, a lesson plan will be provided and student examples will be shared. Bring your T-shirts, socks, vests and shorts, and we will tie-dye up a storm!

Two Teacher Unions – One Cause
Two Teacher Unions – One Cause This workshop will focus on the MTA and AFT Massachusetts collaboratively working together to improve conditions for our students and our members. Come and find out what we have done so far, some issues of the day and where we will go from here to make things better. Participants are asked to bring their curiosity and a sense of humor.

Use Your Noodle (PDP & PTP)
Get inspired and learn fun new teaching approaches to motivate students to think outside the box. Participants will experience hands-on improvisational theater skills and games for the classroom, explore how the dynamic Use Your Noodle “design challenge” curriculum gets K-8 students thinking critically and take home the curriculum for free!

MTA’s Lens on Beacon Hill (PDP)
MTA lobbyists will provide an update on the impact of the economic crisis on the association’s legislative agenda. The presenters will discuss strategies that locals can implement to advance an agenda concerning state revenues, Chapter 70 preK-12 funding, public higher education funding and the retiree COL A. They also will talk about how to fight cuts in local aid and attacks on collective bargaining, which are affecting every constituency within the MTA as this tsunami-like budget crisis continues to unfold.

Native American Bead Weaving (PDP)
In this workshop, participants will learn something about the tradition of Native American beading. They will use math concepts to graph several designs, make simple and inexpensive wood looms suitable for classroom use and learn how to use the loom and the graphed designs to “sew” seed beads to create wristbands.  

The Power of Embracing Diversity (PDP)
What is the power of embracing diversity? How does it affect professional and personal growth? The Sun Poem, with its powerful diversity message, has been introduced in schools across Massachusetts since 1987. Now it has been introduced at colleges and universities in 40 states. This interactive workshop – through a DVD presentation of the story of The Sun Poem, interactive dialogue and exercises – will empower participants with a deeper understanding of diversity.  

Performance Evaluation: How the Union Can Effectively Help the Teacher in Trouble (PDP)
This workshop is geared to union officers, grievance representatives and building representatives who may find themselves working with a teacher whose performance is found wanting by a supervisor. Your job as the union representative is to be an advocate for the teacher and to protect the integrity of the evaluation procedure. You will leave this workshop with powerful tools to ensure that the negotiated evaluation system is being used fairly and that any improvement plan is constructed so that both the teacher and the evaluator are held accountable.

The full list is here.   

I heard on NPR the other day part of a story about Indian families in the U.S. choosing to return to India. One young mother, Deepa Venkatesh, explained her and her husband’s decision to immigrate to Chennai on the Bay of Bengal as motivated, in part, by concern over their children’s education. Deepa explained, “The education system here is excellent. The kids have learned so much more here, I think, than in the U.S. I look forward to them going through the system here and possibly going back there for university."  

One suspects that the teachers in Chennai are probably not as adept in balloon twisting as their counterparts in Massachusetts. But you never know.

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