Using mindfulness to find greater peace

When Kristin Colarusso-Martin, the community schools director for the Massena (N.Y.) Central School District, started planning for the reopening of schools last summer, she wanted to find a way to help students and staff deal with the stress and trauma brought on by the pandemic. “We recognized that students were going to be coming into school, and our staff as well, with this collective trauma that we had to try to figure out how to address,” said Colarusso-Martin during an AFT TEACH session July 10. Even though the district brought in counselors, therapists and social workers, something was missing. Colarusso-Martin found the answer in mindfulness.

Hope for the future of public education

At the closing session of AFT TEACH on July 10, Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus and AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram were joined by Deputy Education Secretary Cindy Marten for a conversation on what comes next in public education. They discussed the hurdles of the past 16 months, the amazing work being done to recover and prepare for the coming school year, and our vision for equity and access in the session called “The Future of Public Education.”

Rapid response grants for the 2020-21 school year

Healing an Oregon community after a devastating wildfire. Retrofitting school ventilation systems in McAllen, Texas. Bringing together paraprofessionals and school-related personnel across Florida to learn leadership and self-care. These are just a few ways AFT affiliates used AFT Innovation Fund COVID-19 rapid response grants for the 2020-21 school year, as these inspiring videos show.

Teaching literacy as a path to justice

How can educators point literacy toward the goal of racial equity? They must consider their roles in “creating a literacy that is inclusive and just,” explained Anne Harper Charity Hudley, an education professor at Stanford University, in a workshop on July 9, “Language and Culture Are the Building Blocks to Literacy.” She was joined by instructional coach Kimberly Bigelow and AFT national trainer Areli Schermerhorn.

Educators thriving: The nuts and bolts of avoiding burnout

Two months into his teaching career, Tyler Hester’s mother took him out for breakfast; he was so overwhelmed with his new job, he cried into his pancakes. Educators at Hester’s July 9 AFT TEACH conference workshop could relate. They were rapt as he led them through exercises and resources to boost their own well-being amid the most challenging year of their careers. The session was a sample of workshops from Hester’s Educators Thriving program and the Boston Teachers Union, a partnership made possible by an AFT Innovation Fund COVID-19 response grant.

Civic education is vital to saving our democracy

“Teaching civics is vital to ensuring that our democracy in America survives and to ensuring that students see themselves as having a role and a voice in our country,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten at TEACH on July 8. “It’s how we provide a counter to the propaganda and the noise that permeates our political culture. It’s how we lay the groundwork for a future generation that’s engaged, that’s informed and that’s empowered.” To discuss why it is critical that educators have the freedom to teach and engage their students in meaningful lessons around democracy, Weingarten was joined by Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams and Harvard University professor Danielle Allen, two experts at the forefront of the fight for democracy.

In America, ‘No one should feel sidelined’

The chat flew and so did the hour as 165 AFT members joined high school history teacher Sari Beth Rosenberg for her July 8 TEACH workshop, “Seven Principles for Deconstructing Classroom Instruction: Moving Forward with Lessons Learned.” For remote instruction, Rosenberg said she was forced to rethink how she teaches, and when she asked whether remote or hybrid teaching changed the way participants plan to teach next year, the answer was a resounding yes.

What can educators do to stop violence against Asian Americans?

Anti-Asian racism is often invisible in our schools and workplaces, but at a workshop during the AFT’s TEACH conference on July 8, a group of educators and union leaders brought it to light with historical accounts and personal experiences, then listed promising solutions to help educators support their own communities and ease this scourge on the nation. “It’s really important that we embrace the fact that we all lose when any of our groups … experience oppression, racism and hate,” said United Teachers Los Angeles Secretary Arlene Inouye. “And we all win when we address that together.”