COVID-19 has shifted day-to-day functions, teaching included. But that hasn’t dissuaded Chicago educators from finding ways to collaborate. Educators for Excellence-Chicago teacher leaders have started leading weekly virtual spaces for other educators to share ideas.
E4E member and first-grade teacher Dee Farder has helped facilitate these virtual spaces. “It’s been exciting to watch other educators be raw and real about the urgency of our work as teachers,” explained Dee. “We are coming together virtually to support each other in supporting our students during this critical time.”
During Wellness Wednesdays, teacher leaders guide participants through a series of mindful exercises and calming techniques meant to help address their own mental health needs. E4E member and diverse learning teacher Artemis Kolovos was inspired to start Wellness Wednesdays after hearing from colleagues about their stress levels during this pandemic.
As a leader in E4E-Chicago’s educator mental health advocacy, Wellness Wednesdays was a natural way to continue the work. “With the barrage of daily news conferences, and juggling work-home life, we are all feeling a bit overwhelmed,” said Artemis. “Now more than ever it is important to stay calm and focused. If we can help model some of this for our students, even better.”
Artemis, along with Dee, led a group of nearly 30 participants through breathing exercises, yoga stretches, and gratitude reflections during their first meeting. All of the wellness techniques could easily be adapted for student use.
While Wellness Wednesdays focus on mental health and well-being, Collaboration from Your Couch provides space for educators to talk about struggles and share ideas for remote learning. Given the shift to remote learning, E4E member and first-grade teacher Latasha Mallory wanted a way for educators to share resources with each other, talk about how they’re approaching teaching in this new way, and ask questions of various experts, including the CPS Office of Teaching & Learning.
During the first Collaboration from Your Couch session, Latasha and Dee, along with three other teacher leaders, facilitated small breakout groups that rotated between various topics of conversation with about 30 participants. “I have taught for over 20 years, and this is the first time Chicago Public Schools has ever dealt with remote learning,” said Latasha. “In order for us to be successful during such a time of uncertainty, it’s important to have space to collaborate with each other about things like accessible and reliable resources.”