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NEA Today August 2021

In this issue, we hear from educators who share advice for helping communities get back to a school year like no other; whether the pandemic will change homework forever; teaching in the era of polarization; finding lost students after COVID-19; and share stories of ESP advocating for universal free school meals.
Child in a mask
Published: August 3, 2021

Cover: A Back to School Like No Other

As students and educators return to the classroom—some for the first time in 18 months—we must address the social and emotional needs of the whole school community. Hear from educators who share their experiences and advice for supporting mental health and well-being.

12 Ways to Start the Year
This handy collection of tips and resources can help you get organized, set up your classroom, grow professionally, and take care of yourself and your students this year.

Will the Pandemic Change Homework Forever?
When schools switched to remote learning, all schoolwork became homework. Now some educators are questioning the purpose and merit of take-home assignments.

Teaching in the Era of Polarization
The nation is more politically divided than it has been in decades. And many teachers feel they can no longer stand on the sidelines.  

Finding the Lost Students of the Pandemic
Some 3 million students simply disappeared during remote learning. Educators went to herculean lengths to locate their missing students—and their work continues today.

2021 Teacher of the Year
Special educator Juliana Urtubey has been named the national Teacher of the Year for her work in creating equitable schools. 

ESP: ‘No Child of Any Age Should Go Hungry’
When a student would rather skip lunch than use a free-meal card, an education support professional is often the first one to notice. That’s why many are speaking out in favor of the universal school meals program, which would provide free meals to all students. 

Issues and Impact

Collective bargaining: Key to higher wages and shared prosperity
The numbers don’t lie: When unions can bargain collectively, wages and equity increase.

Be like Gwen: Advocate for collective bargaining
Find out how one educator helped overturn a ban on collective bargaining in Virginia. 

People and Places

The Vaccine Hunters
When COVID-19 vaccines were in short supply, a team of educators—aka the “vaccine hunters”—helped senior citizens get the life-saving shots.

‘They Will Remember This’
Meet some of the winners of NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Awards

Teaching and Learning

Emojis in the Classroom

Discover how to use emojis as part of history assignments, daily check-ins, and more.

Three Principles for Using SEL in the Classroom
Try these creative ways to work social and emotional learning into your lessons.

NEA Representative Assembly
NEA leaders, President Joe Biden, and Stacey Abrams speak to delegates about the opportunities ahead.

A Note From the Editor-in-Chief
This year, back to school is a time for healing and renewal. 

President’s Viewpoint
“We have a chance to make significant strides forward for all students.”

Talk Back

Fix School Buildings
Now Public schools should be as safe as self-supporting schools. (“U.S. Schools Need an Infrastructure Upgrade”) The ZIP code the school is in should not determine basic care and maintenance. The learning environment should be clean, healthy, safe, and stimulating to the learner. 

- Judith

Public schools should always be kept in good repair. The atmosphere should be pleasant and encouraging to learning. Our children...deserve the very best education to succeed in life, and for our nation to thrive.

- Leslie

Trauma and the Importance of Play

I whole-heartedly agree with Ms. London that students need to play to heal from the trauma of the pandemic. (“How Play Can Help Heal Trauma”) By all means, let’s keep recess, but let’s also provide more quality physical education programs for kids to rebuild relationships, develop positive social-emotional skills, and have fun. I’m not talking about “roll out the ball, gym teacher” PE, but programs that give kids the skills, knowledge, and concepts they need to live active, healthy lives.  

- John

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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.