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The Association of American Educators (AAE) is the largest national, non-union, professional educators' organization, advancing the profession by offering a modern approach to teacher representation and educational advocacy, as well as promoting professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda.



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We have the utmost confidence in the women and men who serve our nation’s students. Their professionalism and dedication will shine. Commit to priortizing the well-being of all of our children as we work through these disruptions together.






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Blog

Teaching in the Time of COVID

posted by Tamia | July 02, 2020, 02:12 pm

This week's guest blog is by AAEF Advocacy Fellow and Educator Joli Sotallaro.

 

Summer break is here, and for the first time in my teaching career, I am left to wrap up the school year without the typical traditions of field days, yearbook signings, and games. All the events that provide closure and celebrate a year of learning and growth have been shifted to digital platforms and have left me and many teachers with a feeling of unease and a sense that this year could not possibly be over. In the process of cleaning and closing down my classroom, reflection on what has undoubtedly been one of the most difficult years brings to the front of my mind several thoughts.

 

First and foremost, I still love teaching. The opportunity to build relationships with students and to watch them develop into young adults gives a strong sense of purpose and passion to my life. There are very few professions in which a person regularly gets the opportunity to see students set goals, ask questions, think for themselves, and grow into the next generation of world-changers. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the jarring shift from the classroom to digital learning, I have had new opportunities to learn and be creative in instruction. Determining the best method to communicate learning and figuring out how to help students connect with classroom material from their homes has helped me to develop a new set of skills and to grow as an educator.

 

Just as reflecting on the year confirmed my love of teaching, the fact that teaching has become more challenging during this time is also very apparent. Managing a digital classroom or a Zoom is very different from managing the traditional learning environment. Providing real-time feedback and helping students to ask questions and find answers through peer-led, academic conversations is much more challenging that it was in the classroom. The most important part of teaching, building and maintaining good relationships with students, is more challenging than ever before. The small conversations that led to big connections-- the short conversations in the hallway, at the lockers, or in the lunchroom are no more, and many teachers are struggling to find a way to connect to each student on a personal level through Zoom, email, and chat features. In addition to teachers’ struggles to connect, students are also struggling to connect with teachers and each other as the role of many students has changed dramatically. Many older students are expected to watch younger siblings or are working to help their families through this time. Other students and their families are dealing with a loss of income, illness, or other financial struggles, and providing support for all students during this time is critical.

 

Looming in the back of my mind like storm clouds on the horizon, are the concerns about next year-- what school will look like, how to be a more effective educator in a time of upheaval, and when guidance will be issued so that the planning can begin. Teachers, parents, students, administrators, and staff are anxiously awaiting answers to the pressing issues facing all communities for the upcoming school year.

Questions like:

●       What will the criteria and requirements be to reopen schools? When will a re-entry plan be released?

●       Who gets to determine the acceptable risk of foreseeable harm in our public schools if we return to on-site instruction?

●       Will students and staff members be required to wear masks?

●       How will the budget for public schools be impacted, and what measures are being taken to ensure equitable access to funds for all schools?

●       Is a hybrid schedule with some online and some on-site instruction a possibility? Would this plan meet the needs of working parents throughout the state? Would this plan provide internet and computer access for households that do not currently have it?

●       Will teachers be provided with opportunities for professional development so that they can adequately meet the needs of all students, including students with different learning abilities?

●       Will schools be provided funding to order Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? Does the supply chain have the capacity to handle the demand if schools are open for on-site instruction?

●       How will the plan for transportation of students to and from schools be implemented? What will be done to ensure that geographically large, rural districts are able to implement these plans?

 

As the time comes for these questions to be answered and plans to be made, I implore state, community, and school leaders to give teachers a seat at the table.  Rather than issue directives for teachers to wade through and figure out, allow our expertise and education to provide a valued voice for our students and the profession.  Reach out to the parents and students in the community to start meaningful conversations so that the needs of all students can be met.

 

Joli Sotallaro holds a Bachelor of Arts in History degree from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Science in Educational Leadership degree from Arkansas State University. She currently serves as a classroom teacher at the middle level. She is a member of the Arkansas State Teachers Association and an AAE Foundation Advocacy Fellow. 

 
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