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The emotional learning course, developed by Yale, will be offered for free to all school staff members in Connecticut to help teachers understand and manage their stress and anxiety so they can better help their students.
Teachers, counselors and staff members at K-12 schools in Connecticut will be offered free training from Yale University to address the stress, isolation and anxiety that they—and their students—have been experiencing since the Covid-19 pandemic closed schools in March.
“The course is a little bit of theory, a little bit of science, and a whole lot of practical strategies,” Marc Brackett, founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, said Friday during a Zoom roundtable discussion on the program. “It’s all about we, as teachers, being compassionate emotional scientists, helping students explore what works best for them.”
The “Social and Emotional Learning in Times of Uncertainty and Stress” course, developed by the Yale center, is designed to give educators the tools to better understand and address their own emotional needs, allowing them to do the same for their students. The 10-hour virtual class, funded by philanthropic organization Dalio Education, is free for all Connecticut school employees and will be offered on a rolling basis throughout the year. Staff members who complete the course will get a certificate from Yale.
Helping educators address their own stress and trauma is important, Brackett said, because negative emotions tend to have a trickle-down effect that can impact students’ moods, along with their ability to learn effectively.
“We engage in catastrophic thinking. We go into survival mode, not into teaching mode, not into learning mode,” he said. “A stressed-out teacher or educator is a stressed-out classroom.”
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday that the partnership with Yale was partially prompted by children who began calling the state’s crisis intervention hotline this summer, looking for someone to talk to about their problems after months of being isolated at home.
“It just reminded me again how important it is that we reach out to the whole kid to make sure we’re there for them,” he said. “And that is also true of the teachers.”
Friday’s announcement comes just weeks before schools in Connecticut are set to reopen. Lamont, along with Miguel Cardona, the state’s commissioner of education, have said they would prefer at least some in-person instruction for students this fall, but left the specifics of reopening plans to individual districts.
“Addressing the educational setbacks and the social-emotional toll caused by Covid-19 is best addressed by maximizing in-person instructional time,” Cardona said in June.
In response, the state’s largest teacher union this week called for a two-week delay to the start of the school year to expand and improve remote learning, giving districts the option to offer all-virtual classes in lieu of part-time in-person instruction.
“Remote learning is still the safest option,” Jeff Leake, president of the Connecticut Education Association, said in a statement. “Any return to the classroom requires additional precautions, including strict social distancing and access to Covid-19 testing, that are not currently included in the state plan.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.