NEA Member Connections Help Sustain Educators During Crisis

April 10, 2020 - por

NEA Member Connections Help Sustain Educators During Crisis

Everyone knows educators are there for the students. But it’s your relationships with your educator colleagues that make your job more satisfying, whether you’re sharing resources and ideas, or just venting about the day-to-day demands of the education profession.

Connections with others are powerful – research shows they help us live longer, and there’s evidence educator connections might help us teach longer.

But when your daily interactions with everyone, let alone your colleagues, are suddenly cut off, finding a way to maintain connections becomes more important than ever. As schools closed one after another with the spread of the Coronavirus, the National Education Association’s 3 million members’ ability to reach out was put to the virtual test.

Facebook groups created by NEA affiliates and members popped up everywhere, and educators are posting everything from distance learning strategies, to words of encouragement, to links to member-led professional development workshops.

NEA launched a Facebook Group, NEA Educators Navigating COVID-19 Together, where educators from around the country are now sharing critical services they’re providing during school closures.

Educators have been inviting each other to access free webinars and member-led Facebook Live events that cover topics from educator trauma to online trivia games. They’ve shared videos of themselves wishing their colleagues well and advocating for more safety equipment for educators distributing food and other services. And they’ve posted messages of hope, where they reassured each other as they worked to reassure their students.

Many of the messages shared a theme – we are all doing the best we can, we’re conducting emergency remote learning and doing so without all (or any) of the right equipment, technology or training, and what we are able to do during this unprecedented global crisis for our students and our families is nothing short of amazing.

When the California Teachers Association launched its Facebook group, CTA Teaching, Learning and Life During COVID-19, in mid-March, it had nearly 14,000 members within a few days of going live. The members shared sources and ideas, like proven online learning platforms, lessons for virtual classrooms, and special education questions. It was also a much-needed place for the educators to vent: This is a frustrating time! I’m having technology issues! What are we supposed to be doing? What are the expectations? Finally, the group offered a place for everyone to laugh and smile with hilarious memes and feel-good stories.

“We created the group, but our members are molding and shaping it into the space they need at the moment, in real-time,” says Samantha DeMuro, CTA’s digital editor. “We hope the group will grow to a larger, expanded space for members to share teaching and learning resources in the future. We’ve never been able to have such a large group of our members in one space, so it’s exciting to be able to work together in this way. I’d love to see a space where we could do live webinars, panel discussions, conference planning, teacher chats, online trainings.”

Facebook groups created by NEA affiliates and members popped up everywhere, and educators are posting everything from distance learning strategies, to words of encouragement, to links to member-led professional development workshops.

The NEA Aspiring Educator Facebook group also offered a lifeline to student members across the country, according to Kaity Montcrieff, vice president of the University of South Florida chapter of NEA Aspiring Educators.

“Like most Aspiring Educator chapters, every one of our plans for the spring semester crashed and burned at the beginning of March,” she says. “Community projects, fundraisers, PAC parties for the 2020 election, conferences, officer elections, everything.”

Amid the news of the pandemic and cancellations, Montcrieff, realized her chapter members needed something to ground them. She launched Virtual Covid-19 Response Workshops with five presenters whose meetings had been cancelled for spring. They decided to present them online, promoting them on the national Aspiring Educators Facebook and state channels with #VCRWorkshops.

“It blew up!” she says. “As of today, we have around 150 aspiring educators signed up from Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, California, Texas, Utah, Vermont, New Jersey, North Carolina, Kentucky, Connecticut, Indiana, and more.”

The intention of the #VCRCWorkshops was to provide aspiring educators with the chance to present at a conference — or attend — if theirs was cancelled and to share their knowledge and gain resources and ideas from other aspiring educators. They’re also helping the continuity of learning to prepare members for when they do enter the classroom.

 “VCRCWorkshops allow aspiring educators to show their adaptability,  knowledge of virtual conferencing, and their dedication to the education profession,” she says. The workshops focus on everything new teachers need to know: First Year Teacher Checklist, Social Emotional Learning, Classroom Management, ClipCharts, Reconnecting with your “WHY?”, Creating a Questioning Classroom, Arts Integration, Preparing for your Internship, and Controversy in the Classroom.

Montcrieff says her secondary education masters program at the University of Central Florida always emphasizes the use of literature and knowledge of someone else’s “story” or lived experiences to build connections. “The story of learning about education through crisis (our own or our students’) will build connections that last throughout our careers,” she says.

On NEA’s Aspiring Educator Facebook page, the chairperson said it well.

“Your NEA family wants to do everything we can to make sure you feel supported and informed during this crisis across the country. While there might not be quick solutions, we can still build an online community and support others in this time of need and uncertainty.”