Professional Development: Opening Doors, Opening Minds
The MEA continues to work to help all of our members grow in their profession by offering new and exciting opportunities to advance their career while earning contact hours. Recently, the MEA held its spring Professional Issues/Student Education Association of Maine (SEAM) Conference.
The conference offered members the chance to choose from thirty different workshops and learn everything from tools to use in special education classrooms and workplace bullying to how to deal with the new rules of restraint and inspiring readers by building reading communities. In total, more than 200 members attended the conference saying they were excited to have the chance to learn from their peers and trained staff who focus on educational issues around the country. “It’s really energizing. You hear good ideas from other people; you go back to school feeling renewed and say ‘yeah I can do this’,” said Ann Sullivan (RSU 19 EA) a social worker at Newport and Corinna Elementary Schools.
While the conference offered a variety of workshops, one of the more well attended sessions dealt with making a difference for students in poverty. The session examined the effects of poverty on our students including the harsh statistics: according to research, children in professionals' homes are exposed to 32 million more words by the age of four than children in welfare homes. Members learned about how to deal with that gap and how to deal with students who are “food insecure.”
“I’m learning more about understanding why students act the way they do. I work with a younger group of students and sometimes you’re thinking oh they’re just hungry and now I’m realizing they’re bringing their family issues with them to school. So, it is more than just ‘I’m hungry,’ something happened at home or in the neighborhood and now I understand more on how to help that student. It’s very interesting,” said Karen Brown (SAD 54 EA).
ESPs are Educators Also
Many Education Support Professionals attended the conference and benefited from a session that dealt specifically with the current issues surrounding ESPs including the proposal in many districts to out-source ESP work. ESPs are an important part of students’ learning and the group who attended this workshop learned how to build strong local support for ESPs in hopes of stopping efforts toward privatization.
“ESPs need to learn how to get their message out. We are historically not braggers about the job we do. We come in and feel self-respect for what we do and go home, but at the end of the day our jobs are usually the first on the line to be cut. It’s time for ESPs to communicate that story of how they do their job and then they can get more self-respect from the community,” said Bob Calderwood, Custodian Camden-Rockport Elementary School (Megunticook Bus Drivers & Custodians).
Members who attended the PIC/SEAM Conference say they are excited to share what they learned with those who couldn’t attend. If you couldn’t make it this time, remember the MEA offers many professional development opportunities throughout the year to help you grow in your profession.
Teacher Evaluation Training Sessions
The MEA offered teachers another unique opportunity to learn how to have a say in how they are evaluated. The training sessions included helpful tips on how teachers can take an active role in making sure their evaluations are both fair and accurate. The sessions were broken up into two parts. The first dealt with the evaluation itself and understanding the model, and the second trained teachers on how to make sure the model is implemented correctly. During both sessions teachers learned they have a right to negotiate what their evaluation process looks like and how to have an active role in the entire process.
Exclusive ELL Training
The MEA offered English Language Learner educators an exclusive training session in Portland earlier this month. The workshop focused on recognizing and building on demographics, cultural and equity assumptions and culturally relevant instruction. The workshop helped members find innovative ways to motivate ELLs to practice academic language skills that are carefully structured and require students to demonstrate growing proficiency. MEA members who attended received 6 contact hours for certification/authorization.