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‘Straight Talk’ and ‘Teachers on Teaching’: Podcasting in Lowell and Boston

Over the last five years, podcasts – episodic audio programs that can be downloaded over the internet – have been an incredibly fast-growing form of communication. More than 1 in 4 Americans have listened to a podcast in the past month, according to the Pew Research Center.

This year, two AFT Massachusetts locals created podcasts to communicate with their members and the general public.

“With all of the different forms of communication people use today, it’s important for our local unions to reach out in every way possible. Teachers in Lowell and Boston are using podcasts to connect with each other, share important information about our schools, and organize to improve our profession and the lives of our students,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “It’s easy to get started listening to a podcast or even creating your own. Talk to other members of your union – maybe you’ll be the next AFT local with a podcast!”

United Teachers of Lowell Podcast: Straight Talk

Listen: or search for ‘UTL495-StraightTalk’ on Apple Podcasts

Podcast team Amy Bisson and Mickie Dumont from the United Teachers of Lowell (UTL) ventured into podcasting in July after brainstorming ways to communicate with their members in a way that would allow busy professionals to multi-task.

“We know our members can sometimes be overwhelmed, but we wanted to make sure that they were updated with important information from our Union,” said Dumont. “Engaging members is a priority for the UTL and we have found that there is no shortage of important issues to bring to our members’ attention.”

Right around the time of the UTL Straight Talk’s first episode - late June - the Janus decision was about to come down. The first episode featured UTL President Paul Georges explaining the case and the decision to UTL members in a podcast that was reminiscent of a conversation. Paul’s podcast recording was a chance for the local to explain the history of this court case and to make sure members knew and understood what the impact of the Supreme Court Decision might be.

Since that first podcast, the UTL has published more than 20 episodes, one each week. They’ve spoken with AFT Massachusetts staff members about what a field rep’s responsibilities are, hosted a conversation around the Foundation Budget, invited benefits administrators to talk about health benefits available to all of our members, and recently hosted AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos so that members could hear from her and learn more about her message of member empowerment. They’ve also been lining up educators from across Lowell to talk about some of the wonderful projects and amazing work they have initiated.

“We’ve discovered that we can do a lot in the 15 to 20 minutes of a podcast to reach our members and to continue to recognize the great things we all can accomplish by sticking together,” said Bisson. “The goal is to continue to get information to our members so that they are aware of local, state, and national issues that may have an impact on us all.”

Boston Teachers Union Podcast: Teachers on Teaching


The Boston Teachers Union also created a podcast this year, titled ‘Teachers on Teaching.’ Each episode features a Boston teacher talking about their work and their life as an educator. Hosted by Paul Tritter, Director of Professional Learning for the BTU, the interviews are edited and produced by retired BPS teacher Eloise Biscoe.

“The Teachers on Teaching podcast promotes teacher voice by giving working educators an opportunity to speak deeply about their work and their identity as educators,” said Tritter. “While teaching is often represented to the public as a relatively straightforward job with short days and lots of vacation, this project aims to show the complexity of teaching and how educators bring their full selves and unique identities to their work.”

In each episode, Tritter catches up with an educator between classes during their planning and development period. He talks to them about their teaching and how being teachers shapes their lives.

“We also hope that this podcast can help teachers, who often feel isolated in the profession, connect to the stories of others,” said Tritter.

The first episode featured Raquel Cardoso, an art teacher at the Rafael Hernández K-8 Dual Language School in Roxbury. On a mid-October day, about a month after the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico, Cardoso talks about how her immigrant experience influences her teaching and about how she tries to help students express their own voices and to realize that they can make a positive difference in the world through art.

Other episodes feature Joshua Alexander, an 8th grade Algebra 1 teacher at the Boston Latin Academy in Dorchester, Alanna Melendez, a K2 inclusion teacher at the Patrick J. Kennedy School in East Boston, and Marilú Alvarado, an 11th grade Spanish Humanities teacher at the Margarita Muñiz Academy in Jamaica Plain, the first dual-language high school in the Boston Public Schools.

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