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.”
When Brookfield High School science teacher Heather Biancheri learned of the impact COVID-19 was having on members of her community, she did what many fellow educators around the state began doing: helping those most vulnerable with food delivery and more.
“I began volunteering to deliver food each week to senior citizens to keep at-risk people safe at home,” she says. She also used social media to help educate others about the pandemic.
Brookfield High School teachers Stephanie Vivas and Heather Biancheri collect PPE for their charity, PPE Donations for CT. (They note that they ensure social distancing and that the photo was taken before masks were mandated in Connecticut.)
Soon, however, the 17-year veteran teacher stumbled upon a unique and critical source of support she could also provide. With schools closed and science labs standing empty, Biancheri realized she had a surplus of much-needed gloves, gowns, and other personal protective equipment that were in short supply at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. She knew other science teachers were also sitting on PPE gold mines in their schools.
“I considered the amount of PPE that would be easily collectable from our school labs,” she says. “Realizing that no one had begun to undertake this process, this is where I began my journey to support our community.” Read more
Luciana Lira arrives home with Neysel, her student’s baby brother.
Teachers often feel the tug—from parents, community members, and their own heartstrings—to go the extra mile for the students in their care, far beyond the hours of the school day or the walls of the classroom. Nowhere is that truer than in the home Luciana Lira, a Stamford ESL/native language and bilingual teacher who is now caring for a newborn whose parents and older brother—one of her Hart Magnet Elementary School students—tested positive for COVID-19.
Weeks ago, while the Stamford teacher was in the thick of adapting to remote teaching after schools closed, she received an unexpected call from the mother of one of her seven-year-old students. The woman, a Guatemalan asylum seeker, could barely speak or breathe. Clearly distressed, Zully was calling from the hospital, where she was in labor several weeks early. With no else she could contact, she reached out to her son’s teacher and asked Lira if she could get in touch with her husband, who is unable to speak, read, or write in English. Then she asked Lira if she could come to the hospital; she had just been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was about to deliver. Read more
During these challenging times teachers are going above and beyond to learn new skills to reach their students. Watch CEA members from around Connecticut describe teachers’ role during this health emergency.
Stratford physics teacher Kristen Record after a morning video conference with her AP students.
As learning has moved online in many districts, especially among secondary students, there has been a learning curve for both students and teachers. Video conferencing tools can enhance student-teacher interactions, but only if proper steps are taken to manage security issues and make sure students know how to use the platform appropriately.
Stratford teacher Kristen Record, a physics teacher at Bunnell High School, says she has found video conferencing to be a great teaching tool, given the circumstances, at the high school level. “I get to see my kids’ expressions and have real-time interactions and discussions. It’s also really important for students’ emotional well-being to have time with their class community.”
Video conferencing has been so successful for the 2011 Connecticut Teacher of the Year partly because, before launching into her first online lesson, she made a point to teach students both how to use the platform and the proper etiquette for video conferencing. Read more
Teaching is a challenging profession that doesn’t always receive the recognition it should. Nevertheless, teachers must never doubt their own significance or hesitate to speak up Connecticut’s 2012 Teacher of the Year David Bosso told early-career and aspiring educators during a speech this winter at the University of Hartford.
Berlin social studies teacher David Bosso gave the first talk in the Dean’s Lecture Series at the University of Hartford’s College of Education, Nursing, and Health Professions.
“Teaching is a strange, tenuous balance between feeling empowered and humble,” Bosso told the 100 students and professors gathered for the first talk in the education department’s Dean’s Lecture Series. “We are giants. We are pillars in our communities. And any teacher who stands among great teachers, among their students, feels like they are walking among the redwoods. But even redwoods, as they reach for the sky, remain firmly rooted in the soil. On average, redwoods live over 500 years. How far into the future does our impact go?”
Thanksgiving is almost here, and students and teachers around Connecticut are sharing what they’re thankful for.
Woodland Regional High School’s 600-plus students rose to their feet and cheered as beloved teacher Meghan Hatch-Geary was honored in a surprise ceremony announcing Connecticut’s 2020 Teacher of the Year (TOY). The announcement came this morning at the Beacon Falls school where she and her husband, building rep Paul Geary, teach English.
Region 16 Education Association President Stephen Jerram, 2020 CT Teacher of the Year Meghan Hatch-Geary, CEA President Jeff Leake, and CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas.
“We are so proud to see Meghan recognized for the invaluable work she does and for the talent, passion, and dedication she brings to the teaching profession,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “Her work, like that of her peers, does not begin and end when the bell rings; it extends well beyond the school day and well beyond the walls of her classroom, into extracurriculars and the community sphere. Connecticut’s teachers truly enrich the lives of their students and delight in their personal and academic achievements, and we are pleased to honor Meghan as an ambassador for the profession. She is an exemplar and an inspiration.” Read more
In ways big and small, many Connecticut schools are celebrating Halloween today. Here are just a few of the fun activities and costumes making it a special day for students.