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Commissioner Announces Flexibility, Urges Teachers to Do the Best They Can to Keep Students Learning

State Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona today told CEA leaders that his department is focusing on the big picture: ensuring safety for students and staff and keeping students engaged. He urged teachers to “give it your best effort to serve kids” and provide continuity of education with today’s reality.

In a conference call, the commissioner said his agency will be as flexible as possible when it comes to keeping students engaged, but he said, “Everyone has to be doing something.” Whatever teachers are doing to keep students engaged and learning, interaction between each educator and other individuals must be limited to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Read more

CEA Members, Staff Urge Passage of Legislation to Improve Air Quality in Schools

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Testifying before the legislature’s Public Health Committee, CEA legal counsel Melanie Kolek talks about the explosion of illnesses and workers’ compensation cases linked to sick schools.

Classrooms were over 100 degrees. Crayons were melted, tables warped, magnets curled and fell off the boards, candies melted, floors buckled. Medical concerns when the temperature of the room was unbearable consisted of dizzy spells, headaches, blackouts, concentration issues, and difficulty breathing. Extreme temperatures caused mold to grow throughout the building, including in the HVAC systems. Teachers discovered mold behind ceiling tiles, around pipes, behind the wallpaper, on baseboards, on student shared materials, and around windows. We began to notice that many of us, including students, were having medical concerns that affected our ability to function. We are concerned that the exposure to these elements will have lifelong effects on our overall health. 

Testimony from CEA’s members and legal team before the legislature’s Public Health Committee earlier this week has painted an alarming picture of classroom environments throughout the state. Dirty air vents, water intrusion, rodent droppings, and black mold have given rise to respiratory ailments, rashes, and debilitating illnesses among students and teachers.

Sharing personal accounts of the conditions in their own classrooms, teachers have been urging lawmakers this legislative session to pass House Bill 5431, An Act Concerning Indoor Air Quality in Schools. If enacted into law, it would improve environmental conditions in classrooms across the state and set minimum and maximum classroom temperatures. Read more

Coronavirus Update

Governor Lamont declared civil preparedness and public health emergencies in Connecticut yesterday afternoon, in order for the state to take specific actions in response to the coronavirus. The declarations allow the governor to take broader measures to protect public health.

There are currently school closures in six Connecticut towns. Wilcoxson Elementary School in Stratford, Nathan Hale School in New Haven, as well as Woodbury and Bethlehem public schools (Region 14) will close for the remainder of the week, and Westport and Wilton Public Schools will remain closed until further notice. Those schools will be closed for deep cleaning, and Region 14 noted that missed school days will be made up in June.

CEA has been working closely with the State Department of Education and other education stakeholders on protocols for other possible school closures in response to coronavirus. CEA agrees that it is better to be overprepared than underprepared and the Association is taking numerous steps to help prevent the spread of the virus and to keep students, teachers, and communities safe, including Read more

Documentary Assists Teachers in Helping Students Dealing with Trauma

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 myprofession@cea.org.

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

Share with Legislators Why We Need a Comprehensive Approach to Address Student Trauma

The Education Committee has an important hearing scheduled for Monday, and we need you to share your stories!

Monday’s public hearing will include testimony on legislation related to social and emotional learning in our schools in the form of HB 5378.

While the Education Committee’s proposal contains important pieces, it is not enough. What is truly necessary is a comprehensive approach to address student trauma and promote social emotional learning.

CLICK HERE to submit testimony on this important initiative. Read more

Wellness Workshop Helps Teachers Recognize, Address Their Students’ Stress—and Their Own

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Bloomfield teachers Rose Rose and Despina Strombolis were among dozens of participants in a wellness workshop organized by their local association, thanks to a grant from CEA.

As the number of students dealing with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) has increased, so has the incidence and severity of disruptive behaviors in classrooms. And that, experts say, has led to tremendous secondary stress for teachers. In fact, teacher stress levels have ratcheted up in recent years because of a number of factors—something that CEA has teamed up with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to study in a statewide survey of educators.

“We are seeing it here,” says Bloomfield fifth-grade teacher Mary Kay Rendock, “and my colleagues around the state are seeing it as well.”

“Teaching has always been a stressful profession, but in recent years it has become even more so,” CEA Teacher Development Specialist Kate Field explains. Read more

10 Free Things for National Nutrition Month

Emphasize the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits. Our recommended resources include teaching guides, lesson plans, best practices, tip sheets, online learning games, educational videos, posters, book lists, coloring pages and more.

Grades preK-12

  1. School Breakfast Week
    The first week of March is National School Breakfast Week. The NEA Foundation supports Breakfast in the Classroom and partners with organizations to provide grants for Breakfast in the Classroom programs.
  2. eatright.org
    Provides information on food, health and fitness and sections for kids, parents, men, women, and seniors.

Read more

CEA Amplifies Call to Diversify the Teaching Profession with New Campaign

CEA is stepping up its efforts to diversify Connecticut’s teaching force by launching a statewide awareness campaign aimed at encouraging more young people of color to pursue careers in teaching. Right now, more than 40 percent of Connecticut’s schoolchildren are minorities, but only 8 percent of the state’s teachers are people of color.

The new campaign, Teaching Is Calling You, highlights teachers as role models for their students as well as mentors for young people who may never have considered the positive difference they could make as future educators.

“Teachers are the single most important in-school influence on student learning, and it stands to reason that our educators must reflect the culture and diversity of their students,” said CEA President Jeff Leake. “Having a racially and culturally diverse teaching force enhances all students’ academic achievement by providing them with multiple perspectives that allow them to gain a greater understanding of the world around them.” Read more

Reading Bus Brings the Joy of Reading Home to Connecticut Students

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Fourth-grade teacher Tracy Doyle (far left) says CEF’s Reading Bus Tour is a great way of getting students to keep reading.

“This motivates me to read more,” said Dayana Yanes, aboard a big blue bus parked outside Mayberry Elementary School this morning.

The East Hartford fourth-grader was one of dozens of students at her school who boarded the colorful Read Across America bus to hear You Will Change the World One Day, June Peters’ story of a ten-year-old girl whose heart leads her to help a stranger, and then an entire community. The guest reader was Tom Nicholas, president of the Connecticut Education Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Connecticut Education Association. CEF sponsors the literacy extravaganza with partners iHeartRadio and the National Education Association.

“It was a really nice story that teaches us to be kind to each other,” said Dayana, who herself reads to a younger sibling at home. “And the bus is great!”

The customized, 38-foot schoolbus—decorated with Dr. Seuss characters and outfitted with bookshelves, benches, carpeting, and hundreds of new books—is the centerpiece of CEF’s annual Read Across America Reading Bus Tour. The third annual bus tour rolls into eight eastern Connecticut schools in five towns this year to bring the joy of reading to hundreds of students in urban, suburban, and rural districts. Read more

March is Music in Our Schools Month

March is Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM), and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) website provides ideas for how to participate in MIOSM and promote support for school music. A menu offers downloadable MIOSM logos for web and print use, and activity ideas.

How to Incorporate Music in Your Subject suggests how teachers can include music in math, foreign language, social studies, and language arts classes.

Lesson Plans

ReadWriteThink.org has a number of K-12 lesson plans suitable for MIOSM, as do ArtsAlive and ArtsEdge. Here are some sample lessons and activities: