President’s Corner: A Message from Sarah Hicks

Happy New Year and Welcome to 2021!

As the New Year gets underway and the legislative session kicks off Feb. 1, I what to share my appreciation for the efforts of our Executive Director Ginger Tinney and the Government Relations team. During session, they are on the forefront at the State Capitol advocating for our care and interests. I don’t worry about the politics at the Capitol because I know POE has our back and that all their efforts are based on the feedback we — the members — provide.

Your Feedback Counts

Speaking of feedback, watch your inbox for surveys that will be coming out soon regarding the upcoming legislative session. Please make every effort to take the survey because your opinions are important and guide all POE legislative and policy efforts. Recently, your feedback via surveys helped move teachers up in priority on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. POE shared your opinions and concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccine with Governor Kevin Stitt and Secretary of Education Ryan Walters. This crucial information helped motivate the prioritization of teachers on the list. According to Ginger, “Our hope is that the vaccine will help protect many Oklahoma teachers—who want to take the vaccine—as they continue to overcome the challenges of the COVID-10 pandemic.”

The Pandemic and Social-Emotional Learning

A recent EducationWeek article pointed out that the pandemic for schools is not just a health crisis. It is a financial crisis and a social-emotional learning crisis. During the pandemic, the main thing for me as a Pre-K teacher was to make that emotional connection with children. Connecting with our students is healthy and makes a huge difference, even for our older students. My school has a social-emotional curriculum at Edmond, called “Conscious Discipline.” The curriculum reiterates the need to make a connection and how important it is to make a connection at least two times a week.

For schools meeting virtually, it is all that more important to connect with students. I’ve read several articles, as I’m sure you have, that online learning is not going away. School districts have invested millions in technology and several schools districts, including Edmond, have already come up with own virtual schools.

Social-Emotional Learning Resources

Here are some great resources that deal with social-emotional learning. Through her program, “When the Kids Come Back,” social-emotional learning expert Elizabeth Englander offers free resources to educators to help with the challenges of the pandemic school year. She recently spoke with The 74 Interview, sharing about the importance of preserving social-emotional leadership during the pandemic. The article focuses on what socialization looks online, what teachers should know about trauma and cyber-bullying, and how parents should set screen time.

POE’s Director of Professional Learning, Sheri Bennett, is also a big proponent of social-emotional learning. Throughout the year, keep watching Teachable Tuesdays as she will be sharing about social-emotional learning with first-hand knowledge from when she was an educator and administrator. Along similar lines, the Oklahoma State Department of Education is hosting its fourth statewide trauma summit, Awareness to Action, on Feb. 15. This one-day summit online will expand upon the Department’s previous trauma-informed conferences by offering educators a framework for action. You can register online.

The pandemic has started a new way of thinking, and I think a storm of changes will be coming in education. We are all learning new skills. And as lifelong learners, we will continue to learn and adapt to the challenges and opportunities that are before us in 2021. That’s what we do best!

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