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From the Desk of the NCTA President - Blog

Posted by Christopher Brillant on

May/June, 2021

Dear Colleagues:

As I reflect on the past year, many thoughts and questions come to mind. What has inspired me the most is how we have coped with the past year and dealt with all of the challenges as caring, dedicated professionals. In many ways, teachers inspire students through what we do in the classroom and also what they don't necessarily see in front of them. As educators we are always mindful of the impact that our actions have on our professional careers as well as the influence we have on our students. I can truly say that we did the best we could, our students were watching, and we continued to do the hard work of educating and modeling through very challenging situations and for that we should be proud.

It's also been a busy year for NCTA. We have closed our office in Randolph and our Administrative Assistant will now perform her work duties from home. We offered several opportunities for local union leaders to collaborate with one another through our Regional Union Leaders meetings that began last summer. We organized a virtual awards ceremony for our locals to share with their colleagues in lieu of a banquet. All of these accomplishments showed a team approach to problem solving and doing what is best for our members. We are happy to continue our work with all of you as we look optimistically into the future.

As we cleared out the office, it's worth noting the history of NCTA and all of the records and documents we have on file. My hope is that soon we will be able to showcase some of this association's accomplishments over the past 174+ years and share it with all of our members on our website.

I look forward to serving as your NCTA President through our 175th year. I am hopeful that we will meet in person again for our upcoming banquet in June of 2022 and that next year will be full of what we do best: teach and inspire both our students and one another.

Have a relaxing summer break and take some time out for yourselves... you definitely deserve it!

Best,

Christopher M. Brillant, NCTA President

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March, 2021

Seeing the Light

Dear Friends,

Last month the title of this blog post was a "Glimmer of Hope" and after a few short weeks it may be that now we can begin to see the light, however undoubtedly the path to the end of the tunnel is looking like it's going to be challenging.

Just a few days ago the Governor gave permission for educators and staff members to receive the vaccine which has given us a little more confidence to face our students in person each day. It has also allowed DESE (now BESE, I believe) more confidence to force the full-time reopening of our schools. Although most of our districts within NCTA are operating under a hybrid model, the addition of more students into our buildings poses many challenges that districts are struggling to solve. Clearly with new variants and cases of COVID continuing to persist in our communities, there is still much to consider.

The question remains as to why this year has been such an uphill battle? Public perception of educators continues to be mostly negative, Commissioner Riley insists on largely ignoring teachers' voices, and local School Committees forge ahead with reopening plans that blindly follow DESE's mandates. What happened to working together as an educational community to solve these unprecedented problems? Why has this pandemic turned into a political debate? Have students needs really been considered all along or has this all simply been a way to undermine teachers unions and divide us? 

The truth is that educators and staff members who have devoted their professional lives to nurturing and educating children continue to care. We have our students' interests in mind at all times and we want them to feel welcomed and valued in our classes. We understand what they need and how they learn. We also understand that this year has been difficult on families and that without the usual rhythm of the school year, many voids have been created including the social and emotional well-being of our students. The hybrid learning model that many of us have been working under has not allowed us to reach all of our students effectively although we have tried our best. 

As we look ahead to welcoming more students in person the fact remains that students need us as much as we need the support of our entire educational community as we inch towards school as we knew it before the pandemic. Enough with the blaming and arguing - more of coming together on behalf of our students which is what should have been the focus all along and that is where the true hope lies.

In NCTA news, we continue to move forward with our office relocation planning which has kept us very busy. Looking through historical documents and convention brochures from years past has been really interesting. We are putting together some pictures and highlights from our long history (c. 1847) and we hope to share it on the website sometime in the future.

Our Annual Awards Ceremony will be virtual this year. Our First Vice President Jolene Wagner is developing a virtual slideshow that will be shared with our locals in order for them to upload information and pictures of their honorees. We are looking forward to resuming an in-person banquet in June of 2022.

Don't forget to plan ahead this summer and take a 3-credit graduate level course with us!  Visit https://www.myncta.org/collections/summer-2021-semester for the summer course menu to find 40 online courses in various subject areas taught by local educators.

Stay well,

Christopher M. Brillant, NCTA President

 February, 2021

A Glimmer of Hope?

Greetings,

As we begin to round the corner on a full year of dealing with all of the challenges that this pandemic has sent our way, it's somewhat encouraging to begin to think about the future and how we will overcome this difficult period in our lives.

First, as you know the vaccine is beginning to be administered to those who are most vulnerable. Although there are some logistical concerns and availability issues, educators are hopeful that we will soon be given the opportunity to receive this very important first step to ensuring that we go back to a "normal" school year in the fall. 

Next I would like to shine a light on the emerging conversations and plans that are beginning to take shape in our locals as we work on helping our students recover from the unintended consequences of school closures, the hybrid/remote teaching model and reduced time spent with peers. Schools are about people whether it be the adults who work in them, the families within the community, but most especially the students we serve each day. There are many issues that must be addressed by schools including academic support, social-emotional well-being, curriculum changes, and community building endeavors. These are tall tasks, but also they harken back to what is truly important and how we can work together to address these important issues.

Among many others, here are some important questions to consider: 

How will students be welcomed back in the fall?  

What can we do to foster a community of respect?

What types of positions do we need in order to ensure students have access to specialized support personnel?

What is truly important in our curriculum?

How can our families and the community at large help with this transition?

Although difficult, to stay optimistic about what school will look like in the near future gives us all some hope. Especially noteworthy is how this pandemic has highlighted the importance of the school experience for our students and how our educational communities are vital to the growth of our most prized possessions: our young people.

Here at NCTA, we have been busy as well. By this June, our physical office space will be closed and our very hard-working Administrative Assistant will have the opportunity to work from home. This enables us to maintain the high quality services to our membership while reducing our overhead expenditures. Also, we are planning for a virtual/online Annual Awards Ceremony in order to celebrate the special people in our locals. More information on our banquet and programs can always be found by visiting our website at www.myncta.org  A future blog post will include more details about the banquet and our very exciting Summer Graduate Course Menu.

Stay safe and be well,

Christopher M. Brillant, NCTA President

A Note of Gratitude and Recognition                      

Dear NCTA Members, Directors, Employees & Officers:
I want to take this first snow day of the school year to wish you all a happy holiday season as we approach winter break. Undoubtedly, this year has been full of challenges and uncomfortable situations, however, as always educators have risen to the occasion and done the best we can to ensure learning continues for our students.
Many of you have learned new technology as you've begun to teach your students remotely or in a hybrid model. You've engaged with your colleagues to try new online lessons that make learning fun for your students. You are champions of this pandemic and you deserve a tremendous amount of credit. Additionally, your work as NCTA Directors is valued and appreciated as we stay steady and strong throughout a very unusual year.
Here at NCTA it's important to recognize our employees and officers for their hard work. Janice Hayes, our administrative assistant works diligently to ensure our internal operations are running smoothly by paying close attention to detail, helping out with our course registration process, and answering my endless emails and texts, and more. Debbie Barrett is our Director of Graduate Programs warrior and always delivers for our clients and instructors who demand a personal touch as well as a rigorous learning experience. The Executive Board is also hard at work keeping a keen eye on all facets of NCTA operations as well as ensuring our new initiatives are supported and well-planned. You are all devoted and hardworking and we are so ever grateful for the work that you do.
Here's to 2021 and I look forward to seeing you all in January as we continue our important work together. All the best to you and your families.
Fondly,
Christopher M. Brillant
NCTA President

December, 2020


Dear Colleagues:

As we enter into the holiday season and a new calendar year, it's important to keep in mind everything that has occurred since March in our personal and professional lives and how it has transformed us. It's also important to reflect on this time and try to find the positives - the little things that keep us going each day.

Our students appreciate us in many different ways whether it be a sense of routine, engaging in a class discussion via Zoom, participating in a fun online activity, enjoying an outdoor mask break together, or simply laughing at one of our teacher jokes that may indeed never be funny, but very predictable! These are the moments that make teaching special and they are happening even during the pandemic. In the face of adversity, what inspires you to get up each day and be the best teacher you can be for your students may be the only thing that you find comfort in as the world around us sometimes feels as if it were closing in.

As we approach rising numbers in cases and an unpredictable winter season, I encourage you to try and look at each day with a different perspective. Remember why you are an educator, what motivates you, how you reach your students, and how they react to your teaching style. Will it sometimes be hard? Yes. Will you sometimes feel that you can't do it? Yes. Will you look back on the year 2020 and be happy that it finally ended? Yes. However, some day you will reflect on this past year and you will want to remember the good things, those special moments, the hard work that ultimately paid off.  It's for those things that you will be forever grateful.

Continue to lean on each other, support your colleagues, reach out to those around you who get you through the tough days. Don't forget to laugh, celebrate your successes, enjoy some free time and connect with people outside of school as much as you can. 

All the best to you during this holiday season and may we all enjoy a much better New Year. 

In Solidarity,

Christopher M. Brillant, NCTA President

 October, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

As we finish the third week of instruction with our students, I want to share with you some of my personal thoughts on being a school teacher during a pandemic. I've heard from many of you as we struggle to balance so much: making personal connections with students, developing quality online/hybrid lessons, avoiding screen time overload, and experiencing the huge learning curve that is happening in real time as we teach like never before. Reinventing teaching is hard work especially when many of our members are faced with budgetary constraints and lackluster support from our district and school leaders.

However, there is a ray of hope that I continue to see amongst colleagues and that is the continued dedication and willingness to forge ahead on behalf of our students. No matter what, we are doing the best we can and I am ever so grateful to work with the many educators that make up our membership within the NCTA. You are valued, you are respected, and you are important.

Being an educator right now is challenging.

What we are doing each day is difficult.

How we are feeling is valid.

How we support each other is important.

What we offer our students is valuable.

The support systems that we have are necessary.

Our students need us.

Teaching during a pandemic is hard. 

Some day in the future, our students will look back on these times and remember those who were there for them: family members, friends, and their teachers. Best of luck and continued successes in your classes - whether big or small. We are public school educators and we are here, as always, for all of our students and for each other. 

In Solidarity,

Christopher M. Brillant, NCTA President

 August/September, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

To sum it up, it's been a long summer. Over the past few months, many of our districts have seen unprecedented challenges as they face the reality of returning to school during the COVID 19 pandemic.  There are no easy solutions to the problems that we face, however, we have seen that swift action by many of our local associations has created a network of educators who are willing and able to tackle these issues and create favorable conditions for teachers and students to return to school safely.

I am also aware that there are many of our locals who are struggling during this time. Budget cuts in the spring coupled with the crippling safety protocols and guidelines that must exist to welcome our students into our buildings have also ushered in a sense of uncertainty. Many of our buildings are not considered safe due to ventilation issues and lack of space in order to maintain the proper distance between students in a class. Other districts are grappling with transportation and scheduling issues - the infamous debate over "hybrid vs. remote" learning models has created heated discussions in our communities. It's essential that school leaders alongside parents and educators work together to solve these problems instead of the contentious battles we have seen in some of our locals.

On a personal note, I am proud of the work that NCTA has done over the spring and summer. Each Friday for the past few months, I have hosted virtual Regional Union Leader Meetings where up to 40 participants have come together to share ideas and network in order to assist in negotiations and learn from other locals. The MTA President, Ms. Merrie Najimy has also joined us to offer her support as well as offer us space at statewide virtual meetings to share what some of our locals have been doing. These regional union leader meetings have created an essential network of educators and I plan to continue hosting them into the school year. We have also drafted a statement that our locals are invited to share with their membership which can be found here.

Our yearly planning calendar has been approved and we anticipate virtual meetings up until our December Holiday Presidents Meeting at Lombardo's. We will wait until our October meeting to determine if it is safe to meet then. If not, we will hold the meeting virtually.

In the meantime, I encourage all educators to apply for a $300 NCTA grant this fall. The application and website with exemplars is now available by visiting this link.  Also, you're invited to sign up for a graduate level course this fall - I hear we have some amazing new courses along with our already attractive array of exciting educational opportunities!

I truly wish you all the best this coming school year. We are all facing challenges that we never anticipated, but as this summer has shown we can continue to work together and support one another. Now more than ever our students need us to be strong and supportive - as we have been to each other - and together we will get through this!

In solidarity,

Christopher M. Brillant, NCTA President

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June/July, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

By now you've finished with online teaching, entered grades or report card comments, and most likely you've returned to your classroom for a final walkthrough and to pack up anything left behind back in March.  What a challenging spring this has been for us, our students and our families. Especially noteworthy is the fact that educators quickly rose to the occasion, adapted to virtual teaching, and always held students' best interests in mind. It reaffirms the fact that we are resilient and consistent in our goal to support young people both academically and emotionally. Although not a perfect situation, it was truly a job well done!

I'm well aware that many of our locals are facing devastating budget cuts that are adding to an already uncertain future. We stand in solidarity with you and offer any help we can to ensure a full staff of teachers and support personnel will be present to adequately welcome all of our students in the fall. I'm hopeful that the HEROES Act will be able to alleviate some of these cuts and lessen the burden on our local school budgets. If you haven't done so already, please reach out to your legislators via this link to ask them to support these vital funds: 

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/support-and-improve-the-heroes-act

Just yesterday, the DESE released some preliminary guidelines for districts to consider as we plan for the upcoming school year. Although daunting, it does allow us the summer to brainstorm ideas, create new schedules, and solve different scenarios that will undoubtedly occur. Many districts have created task forces to work out solutions to a possible return to classrooms. The guidelines can be found here: 

http://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/

In case you missed it, in light of the unfortunate incidents in our nation and especially after the death of George Floyd, the NCTA released a statement of dedication to anti-racist teaching that was shared with over 8,000 of our members. The link to that statement can be found here:

NCTA Statement on Anti-racism

In other news, I'm proud to say that almost 300 of our members chose to take an online course with NCTA for the summer session. The courses we offer, many of which are taught by local educators, are an invaluable way to stay informed and maintain licensure at a discounted rate. Be on the lookout later this summer as we release our fall course menu if you're interested in pursuing a convenient way to learn something new and earn graduate credits.

Soon, we will be planning NCTA's Calendar of Events and Activities. The plan is to have most of our fall meetings virtually, with the hope that we will still be able to host the Annual Presidents' Holiday Dinner in December at Lombardo's. Also on the summer agenda is a plan to create New Teacher Packets, likely virtual ones, that we can share with locals as they welcome new teachers to their districts.

As we enter into "summer mode", I encourage you to take a break from the news cycles, read a book, take a stroll, relax with family and friends, and simply breathe. You've earned this time to regroup and recharge for what will be a new approach to teaching and learning, but as educators have all proven recently, our dedication to students will continue to be the focus regardless of the challenges that face us.

I'm looking forward to a second year as President and connecting with many more of you as we continue our important work together.

 Sincerely,

Christopher M. Brillant, NCTA President

 

May, 2020

It's certainly been a challenging spring for many of us as we've learned how to navigate a new world of remote, online teaching as well as balance our other professional and personal responsibilities. As usual, educators have risen to the occasion and continued to do what's best for  students despite this unwelcome change to our daily lives.

As many of you have heard, our Annual Awards Banquet has been postponed until next June - the first time since its inception in 1983. Any local who submitted names for the Teacher Honor Award and Service Award will have the opportunity to celebrate with their friends and colleagues next year. We're looking forward to being with all of you at that time.

Our Future Educator Book Awards are being processed and we are happy to honor our graduating seniors who are considering a career in teaching. We wish them all the best!

Most recently, many of our locals have heard the difficult news that reduced state aid will bring to our schools. To that end, NCTA encourages you to promote the $3 trillion HEROES Act with your state legislators which would allocate more funding for public schools. More information can be found here: 

https://massteacher.org/news/2020/05/senator-heroes-act

As I write this, I'm preparing for a virtual meeting alongside NCTA Directors, Local Presidents and the MTA President Ms. Merrie Najimy to discuss the implications of school closures, student needs, budgetary woes and next steps for the eventual return to our classrooms. I'll be sure to share any insight with you on our website, Facebook page and future blog posts.

Also, I hope many of you consider taking a summer online graduate course with NCTA. These 3-credit courses taught by many local educators and that are supportive of public higher education (Framingham State) are a great way to stay up to date while fulfilling recertification requirements. The deadline to register for a course is June 15th. More information can be found here: 

https://www.myncta.org/collections/summer-2020-semester

This school year has certainly tested us, but it has also cast a light on our resilience and perseverance to serve our students' needs both academically and emotionally. In many cases, our students need us now more than ever and we are there for them, as always.

Sincerely,

Christopher M. Brillant, NCTA President

 March, 2020

I hope this message finds you well.  These are uncertain times for all of us, however, we can find comfort in the fact that we are united in our common goal of keeping everyone safe and healthy.

By now your school district is working on plans to keep learning alive as we deal with statewide school closures due to the coronavirus's arrival in our area. Many of our locals are negotiating fair terms of any type of agreement that allows for learning at home due to several factors including access to the internet as well as access to the curriculum for those who require one-on-one assistance.

Your local Presidents as well as MTA have been hard at work to ensure a plan that's best for all including signing a petition to cancel MCAS testing this spring among other initiatives. I encourage you to visit the MTA website for ongoing updates and important information. I've added a link on our website which can be found here:  https://www.myncta.org/pages/mta-news-updates

Additionally, for those who like to plan ahead and would like to take an engaging online course, our Summer Graduate Course Offerings are currently online and can be found here: https://www.myncta.org/collections/summer-2020-semester

As of now, our 37th Annual Awards Banquet is still scheduled for June 2nd at Lombardo's in Randolph. Your local NCTA Director is currently in the process of facilitating who your honor and service award recipients will be for this year. Please reach out to them if you have any questions about that process. Your Director's name can be found here: https://www.myncta.org/pages/ncta-board-of-directors

Our students continue to be our top priority and we are grateful to all of those who support and encourage us as educators during these challenging times.

Sincerely,

Christopher M. Brillant, NCTA President

 

January, 2020

Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe that we've entered a new decade and that 20 years have gone by since the turn of the century.  For NCTA, this is the second time the organization has seen a century begin and we hope to see another in 2100!

With the future in mind, it's been a tremendously busy year for NCTA and I'm happy to share some of what we've been doing so far. As I mentioned in August, we began our Strategic Planning process which has been both engaging and informative for us as we begin to carve out specific action plans that will guide us moving forward. More to come on that process later on this spring - so stay tuned.

Additionally, I have been looking at ways to improve communication by the use of different platforms such as our new Facebook page and Google Forms to facilitate both communication and outreach to our members.  I encourage you to like and share our Facebook page entitled "Norfolk County Teachers Association". There you will find links to course registration, pictures of our events such as the December Presidents' Dinner as well as other news and updates.

We are anxiously preparing for the Spring, 2020 course semester and registration closes on January 15th.  NCTA consistently offers engaging and affordable graduate level courses that are ever-changing to meet the needs of all educators.  I invite you to contact us if you are thinking of teaching a course through NCTA.  It's a tremendous opportunity and a way for you to share your enthusiasm and knowledge with colleagues across the county.

That's all for now.  I hope winter continues to be kind to us. In fact, as I write this post, it's 70 degrees outside and it feels as though Spring is knocking on our door.  All the best with your students as we approach the mid-year point.  I'll be back here in June with my final blog post with the year in review.

Sincerely,

Christopher M. Brillant

 

August, 2019

Greetings Fellow Educators:

It is with great pleasure that I begin to serve in my new role as NCTA President!  I am fortunate to have the opportunity to lead the oldest teachers' association in the country that is full of over 7,500 dedicated, engaged and passionate educators.   

I have been a member of NCTA since 1998, and I began my involvement with the board back in 2005.  Since then, I have served in many capacities: as a local director, grants coordinator, first vice president, and annual awards banquet chair.  In these roles I became more aware of the great work that we do not only as educators, but as leaders in our schools.  Given today's political climate and economic challenges, our work as teachers is not easy, but I firmly believe in public education and the positive impact we have on our students and colleagues alike.

At NCTA, we believe the best way to serve our locals is to continue our legacy of offering a wide array of graduate level courses at discounted prices, hosting our annual awards banquet where we celebrate the achievements of educators, students and friends of our locals, as well as continuing our grants program that allows teachers to create awesome learning experiences for their students. 

I'm happy to announce that this year NCTA will begin a strategic planning process that will guide our association moving forward for the next 3-5 years.  A collaborative and inclusive process will ensure that all locals are heard.  I'm eager to see what comes of these meetings and I will be sure to keep you informed here on our website.

I wish you all a positive and successful year with your students!

Best,

Christopher M. Brillant

NCTA President


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