Student anxiety and mental health issues were a serious concern before COVID-19 and are even more so now that schools are not physically in session. Distance learning is no substitute for in-person interaction and emotional support, and many educators are struggling to support students and colleagues during this difficult time.
Earlier this month, more than 800 educators attended a webinar hosted by Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Betty Sternberg, Director of Connecticut’s Teacher Leader Fellowship Program, a collaborative program run by CCSU, CEA, and AFT-CT. The webinar, titled, “SEL Best Practices for Supporting Educators and Students During Distance Learning,” featured 23 teachers and administrators from around Connecticut.
Three CEA teachers were featured on the panel. Anthea Groton, a kindergarten teacher at Birch Grove Elementary School in Tolland, shared strategies to help elementary school students deal with anxiety and feelings of isolation and loneliness. She focused on the importance of warm connections between teachers and students and engaging learning activities like Lego Challenges and Living Room Fort Construction. She spoke of the challenges of distance learning and the emotional toll it is taking on teachers, and reminded colleagues, “What you are doing matters. It matters a lot.” Read more
A virtual forum hosted by CEA brought elementary school classroom teachers, special education teachers, media specialists, literacy coaches, school social workers, and others together to share tips, tricks, and challenges—and a few laughs—related to distance learning.
Among the hurdles teachers reported:
- “Different schools and districts are comparing themselves to each other, but we don’t all have the same capacity and resources.”
- “If we have to do this in the fall, we need time—teachers need time, teams need time—to really plan and make this work. We are already finding ourselves working long days and nights, often until 11 p.m.”
- “The level of documentation for special education teachers is through the roof. It took me four hours to update my assignment log and parent contact log. I’m working 10-to-14-hour days, seven days a week. It’s a good thing my own children are grown, but many of my colleagues also have school-age children at home.”
- “Some Facebook groups have become pretty hostile, so set your boundaries.”
- “One student told me she left her apartment yesterday for the first time in eight weeks. How can that be good?”
- “My own son has regressed a little bit during this time, needing me—his parent—around all the time.”
- “I’m afraid we’re either going to see a zillion new referrals for special education in the fall or none at all. And neither is a good scenario.”
- “Student engagement has not been tackled or figured out, so grading is going to be a challenge.”
- “There is a huge difference in live versus asynchronous learning within and among districts. Some districts have legal guidance prohibiting certain things, such as live video conferencing, while others allow it. There’s no consistency.”
- “As a school media specialist, I’ve been on the tech end of it, rolling out Chromebooks, figuring out how to get them handed out, helping students and parents learn how to use them, getting families access to Wi-Fi. Not every parent or child has the same facility with technology. Not every family has the same access.”
- “I had a parent say this about his student: ‘I had no idea he would be like this. I am so sorry.’”
- “You can definitely tell that some students are getting a lot of help from parents while others are left on their own.
- “In the beginning, we were told that we didn’t have to track students’ assignments, but now we are having to track all of this and to pick standards for grading first-graders with all these varying degrees of help at home.”
- “Sometimes you are seeing students who were having trouble composing a complete sentence and are now submitting whole opinion pieces with an introduction, body, and conclusion. I had a parent admit to me that she’s been doing all of her second-grader’s work all week.”
- “What is this going to look like in September, if we are still doing virtual learning and I have five-and six year olds that I don’t know? At least with this class, I had more than half the school year to get to know these little ones. I just am so concerned about what’s going to happen when these very young children are new to this, and I’ve never met them and have to teach them this way.”
As well as being CEA's highest policy-making body, the CEA Representative Assembly (RA) is also usually a chance for teachers from across the state to meet up and converse with their fellow CEA members.
CEA is hosting a variety of free, timely, online trainings, just for you.
Upcoming webinars include a Degrees Not Debt virtual seminar where you can get information about loan forgiveness programs, workshops about preparing for retirement, and a yoga class especially for teachers.
Google Classroom – Rubrics, Grading & Collaborating
April 21, 3:30-4:30pm
Are you comfortable using Google Classroom? Are you doing all you can to engage and teach your students using this platform? CEA members are invited to a free webinar that will help you improve your knowledge of Google Classroom and ultimately the learning environment for your students. Read more
Toxic stress in childhood can lead to all sorts of negative outcomes later in life. Abuse, neglect, witnessing violent events, prolonged hunger, and more can wreak havoc on children’s developing brains, putting them at an increased risk for many types of disease, as well as homelessness, addiction, and incarceration
Teachers today are seeing more violent outbursts, withdrawn behaviors, and other possible symptoms of exposure to toxic stress—and they want to know what they can do to help.
Bloomfield teachers had the opportunity to watch the documentary Resilience recently. To watch the film and hold a facilitated discussion in your local, contact CEA at email@example.com.
CEA has purchased copies of the movie Resilience: The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope so that local associations can learn more about the effects of toxic stress on children as well as ways to protect children from those devastating effects. CEA trainers are available to facilitate discussions following the movie so that members can have open and honest discussions about the sometimes troubling content of the film.
After a recent screening for all educators during a PD day in Bloomfield, teachers gathered in school-based groups to discuss their reactions and ideas for how to help students.
“This is my second time seeing the film,” Bloomfield Education Association President Susan Sumberg told her Laurel Elementary School colleagues. “The first time I watched it the correlation between toxic childhood stress and heart disease, diabetes, and other ailments really surprised me.” Read more
Haddam-Killingworth Middle School teacher and building rep Ruth Masci shares with Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona strategies that have had a positive effect on school climate in her district, a challenge still facing many districts.
“It’s unconscionable what we’re doing to these kids,” said a kindergarten teacher who described long days of math, reading, and writing instruction, with no opportunities for play.
“I am voiceless,” confided a special educator whose 14 students include children with autism, learning disabilities, Down syndrome, and emotional and behavioral issues. “I had five PPTs this week, and when I am in PPTs, I am not providing specialized instruction. I am drowning.”
When new and experienced educators stepped up to the microphone last night to talk about underresourced schools, overtested students, and dysregulated behavior in classrooms, Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona stood with them—and listened.
Teachers throughout the state are increasingly reporting that student trauma, disruptive behaviors, staff ratios, and caseload limits are not getting the attention and resources they deserve. Classrooms are often evacuated, and children in crisis are failing to receive the supports they need. Everything from trauma in the home to excessive testing, class size, and kindergarten start age has been examined for its potential impact on students’ well-being and their classroom environment. Read more