Teachers gear up: Nashua school bells ring today

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire Cam McGurk, a teacher at Fairgrounds and Pennichuck Middle Schools, on Monday raises her hand as a teacher who has been in the profession for at least 50 years.

NASHUA — School District Superintendent Jahmal Mosley told the more than 2,000 teachers gathered at Nashua High School South on Monday the year ahead will undoubtedly be filled with early mornings and long nights, hard work and sacrifice.

As teachers, they are, Mosley told them, the “first people on the front lines,” every day.

School in Nashua officially starts today, but teachers stepped off the bus (literally) Monday morning for a welcome-back meeting.

Mosley presented a “year in review,” emphasizing new stability in the district, thousands of dollars in grants for the Career and Technical education program, district-wide safety training, and the YMCA Power Scholars Academy summer camp as some of the highlights. He commended the new contracts for teachers, paraeducators and principals, while thanking members of the Board of Education and the Board of Aldermen for a successful budget season that allowed the district to maintain current staffing levels.

“Not one of you have to worry about your jobs,” he said to the sea of teachers, many of whom were clad in Nashua Teachers’ Union blue T-shirts.

Teachers get off the bus at Nashua High School South on Monday for a staff welcome.

Moving forward, Mosley believes the district’s English Language Learner population needs the most help, as there is now a 50-1 ratio of students to teachers.

He said he will continue to advocate for additional ELL teachers.

“It’s always been about ‘we,'” he said, addressing the importance for collaboration this year.

This year will also see a continued push toward social/emotional learning and the need to teach the “whole child” rather than a curriculum that seems more “copy and paste.”

Mike Anderson, a former teacher, author and professional development educator led a discussion about a changing world and, therefore, changing schools. Students today are different than they were a decade or two ago, he said, as there is now more content and more knowledge than ever. With a workforce that is rapidly becoming more self-sustained (some studies estimate that before long, half the workforce will be “freelance,” Anderson said), do all students need to read the same book or memorize the same vocabulary words?

Teachers get off the bus at Nashua High School South on Monday for a staff welcome.

While it may seem counterintuitive, he urged teachers to “stop trying to motivate kids.”

Incentives such as stickers for good behavior or even grades ultimately “decrease intrinsic motivation in the long-term,” he said, and teachers should instead focus on cultivating a sense of belonging, purpose, mastery, autonomy and fun in the classroom to help students be self-motivated.

Above all, Anderson emphasized the importance of fostering relationships with students.

“Teachers that kids connect with are the teachers they learn the most from,” Anderson said, adding that it helps to learn students’ names early and make sure to pronounce them correctly. Then, teachers should also make an effort to learn about their students’ lives beyond their academic performance.

This, of course, will not always be easy.

Mike Anderson, an educator who teaches professional development to school districts, on Monday talks to Nashua teachers about the importance of social emotional learning.

“Some kids are easier to like and love than others,” Anderson admitted. However, it is the students who are the most challenging and “prickly,” students he calls “porcupines,” who are “the ones who need our love the most,” he said.

These students, Anderson said, see a lot of bad behavior at home and need a chance to “see us at our best.”

“They do not choose to come to us as porcupines,” he said, and shared a story of a particularly challenging student he had as a fifth-grader who recently reached out to Anderson to say “thank you” for not giving up on him as a kid. The former student, now 25, told Anderson he had just needed that little bit of love and guidance during a very difficult time in his life.

Going into the year, Anderson told Nashua teachers to go out and “hug your porcupines.”

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.

Back to School

Today – Nashua, Hudson and Bedford

Wednesday – Milford

Thursday – Hollis Brookline

Sept. 4 – Merrimack and Souhegan