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NEA Today Summer 2016

Tips on the best ways to start the new school year, how to navigate derailed parent-teacher relationships, how anti-Islamic rhetoric is affecting schools, online educators trying to unionize, and more.
Published: June 16, 2016

Cover Story: Create Wow Moments and A+ Days That Last All Year!

Michael Hairston (shown on our cover and above) teaches music at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Va. We asked him and other NEA members to tell us some of the best ways to start the new school year. 

What Does E-S-S-A Spell? Opportunity!

ESSA implementation signals the end to the standardized assessments and testing mania of No Child Left Behind.

Point of No Return on Cellphones?

As more educators use the devices as teaching tools, the long-term consequences remain unknown.

The Blame Game

If you’ve got a derailed parent-teacher relationship, here are some tips to get things back on track.

Maligned and Misunderstood

As anti-Islamic rhetoric reaches a fever pitch across the U.S., here’s a look at what’s happening in the nation’s public schools. 

Virtual Teachers Want Real-Life Union

Their workloads are bulging. Online educators are fighting back by forming a union.  

Two Become One in the Name of Education

Celebrating the historic agreement that merged the American Teachers Association and NEA.

Education Support Professionals

ESPs Keep Students Engaged

Meet paraeducators Nancy Burke (left) and Ann Benninghoff of Massachusetts and Colorado, respectively. Learn about school bus driver George Wood and American Sign Language communication aide, Norman Cosgrove. Find out how they all keep students healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.


First and Foremost

Jahana Hayes is named 2016 National Teacher of the Year; why the “average” student doesn’t exist; and where the U.S. stacks up when it comes to literacy.

Teaching and Learning

A look at classroom management advice; ideas and tips from Works4Me; a chat with Wimpy Kid author, Jeff Kinney; geeky tech tips, and more.

Issues and Impact

More on the four-day school week; schools experience racial, ethnic tensions; and teachers tell Senate leaders to get to work. 

People and Places

Ways to help students practice random acts of kindness; and three teachers participate in a 340-mile endurance race to raise funds for schools’ wrestling program.

Lily's Blackboard

Let’s make sure new educators know we’re here for them.

Extra Credit

When designing your classroom, consider these seven elements.


Too Much Pressure in Kindergarten

Children learn best through play. “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?” (Spring 2016) Now we have children who hate school and are stressed out. No wonder we have so many behavior issues with our younger grades and burn out by middle school. I taught for over 30 years and what we have done to our youngest learners is wrong! —Sharon

I’ve been teaching for 15 years (six in preschool, the last nine in kindergarten), and I can assure you that we are leaving many, many children behind with these shoved-down first grade expectations. While some kindergarteners are ready for it, there are many who aren’t. These poor children, through no fault of their own, are being identified, retained, labeled, pulled for “RTI” (response to instruction) groups, which shove even more reading instruction at them which they aren’t ready for. —Karen

Introverted Teachers and Burnout

It is very important that a person know himself or herself if he/she is going to join the teaching profession. “Schools Need Introverted Teachers But Avoiding Burnout a Challenge,” (Spring 2016) I’m an introvert and not even a borderline one. I just know what it takes to not become overwhelmed at school and serve my students. I’ve been teaching for 17 years. It is also important for some introverts to know that what you do after school and before school can affect you doing the day. —Sean

Teacher Autonomy Wish List

I want to be led and mentored by experienced teachers, whose goal is helping me to teach as well as I can, rather than bureaucrats obsessed with tracking only those things that are easy to track. “Teacher Autonomy Declined Over Past Decade, Data Shows,” (Spring 2016) I long for the day when half of an observation form is not about whether or not I have posted every standard that I touched on in that class that day on my board, whether or not those standards were written on the board in letters large enough to be seen from the parking lot, or whether I spent enough class time telling the students what the standards are that we are learning about. —Joe

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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.