With the emphasis firmly on social and emotional learning, the AFT and the National PTA hosted a telephone town hall April 14. The call, which drew 55,000 participants, featured experts on mental health, psychology and the science of learning, all to do parents a solid on teaching their children at home.
Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended most of our lives—and more than 30,000 Americans have died so far—AFT President Randi Weingarten described how our members who work in healthcare and other frontline professions are still fighting for basics like protective gear. Meanwhile, school employees valiantly prepare grab-and-go meals, and teachers direct home instruction remotely.
The AFT is focused on three things during this crisis: the health, safety and well-being of everyone in the United States; the lives of our first responders and frontline workers; and the economic repercussions of the emergency.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has upended all our lives,” Weingarten said, praising parents who have stepped up to become instructors, heroic mayors and governors, and AFT members like Yolanda Fisher, a cafeteria worker in Dallas whose work preparing and delivering school meals landed her team on the cover of Time.
“We are going to get through this,” Weingarten said, “hopefully, with most of our loved ones being well, and with those who are sick getting better. That’s part of what so many of us are doing: caring, fighting and showing up.”
She introduced the AFT’s town hall partner, Nathan Monell, executive director of the National PTA, as well as Dr. Pamela Cantor, founder and senior science advisor of Turnaround for Children; Arthur Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association; Jim Arey, a high school teacher and an AFT local leader from Elk Grove High School in Illinois; and Antoinette Brown, a PTA president at Gorman Crossing Elementary School in Laurel, Md.
Cantor urged parents to stay close to the foundations for learning: relationships, routines and resilience. Research has shown that good parent-child relationships and daily routines are linked with the calming hormone oxytocin, which promotes feelings of love, bonding and well-being, she said. Sound relationships and routines also ward off the stress hormone cortisol.
“Relationships that are strong and positive cause the release of oxytocin,” she said, “and this not only helps children manage stress, it offsets the damaging effects of cortisol and produces resilience to future stress.”
The town hall produced hands-on resources for parents, including:
- The AFT’s partner for the town hall, the National PTA, has a wealth of resources on the coronavirus.
- Follow Dr. Cantor on Twitter, @DrPamelaCantor, as well as the Turnaround center’s page on the coronavirus.
- Turnaround specifically offers seven tips for adults to reassure children during the outbreak.
- The American Psychological Association offers free COVID-19 resources that educators, support staff and parents can use.
- During the Q&A, local AFT president Jim Arey recommended a digital classroom tool, Schoology.
- If you are concerned about depression exacerbated by social distancing, visit this resource for the school community Shine Light on Depression, which covers depression and suicide prevention.
- Families and educators alike can benefit from Wide Open School, another AFT partner, which points out that schools may be closed but students’ minds are wide open.
- And of course, check back regularly for updates of the AFT’s practical and science-based information on COVID-19 and Share My Lesson’s remote learning community for educators, school support staff and parents.