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Editor's Note: A Fresh Start

This year, back to school is a time for healing and renewal. 

We are heading back to school, but this year, our annual ritual feels transformative—it’s a time for recovery, healing, and starting anew. The last 18 months have left deep scars on educators, on students, and on our nation. But as we emerge from the pandemic, we also feel a sense of jubilation and renewal.

In this issue of NEA Today, we hope to honor your heroic efforts (in the truest sense of these words) during the pandemic and help you begin again, as we navigate an uncertain future together.

As students and educators return to school this fall, mental health is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Our cover story, “A Back to School Like No Other," explores how educators are putting their students’ emotional well- being first. NEA members share their experiences and advice for promoting social and emotional learning (SEL). Plus, a companion piece in “Teaching and Learning” offers helpful activities you can use to integrate SEL into your lessons.

One of the many stressors facing students during remote learning was the pressure of homework. In “Will the Pandemic Change Homework Forever?," educators have reignited the age-old debate about the value of these assignments, with teachers weighing in on both sides.

In “Finding the Lost Students of the Pandemic," we follow educators’ extraordinary efforts to find students who disappeared while school buildings were closed.

During the last year, the divisiveness that has been playing out on the national stage has only intensified. In “Teaching in the Era of Polarization," NEA members discuss how they have turned these tensions into learning opportunities for students.

Fortunately, we now have many reasons for hope. The story, “12 Ways to Start Your Year," offers ideas to help make this school year rewarding, such as tips for getting organized and setting up your classroom, as well as NEA resources to help you grow and learn professionally.

For even more inspiration, meet the 2021 Teacher of the Year, special educator and NEA member Juliana Urtubey.

As we begin this school year, let’s not return to normal, but rather, return to something better: A place where we give each other grace and understand each other’s experiences. We have all been through something together. Let us hold on to this sense of community as we march forward into the future.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.