Fact: this new “normal” we are working and living under is not something we planned or have ever experienced. This goes for everyone.
Everyone. In. The. World.
Think about that for a minute and with compassion for yourself, parents, students, and Granite District administrators, know that the intention for everyone is to get through this chaos together by creating continued learning opportunities for our students.
GEA is hearing from many of our members who express that they are working harder and longer under the new distance-learning protocols than they did when they had the luxury of being in the classrooms and schools. Feeling as if they need to justify working from home, educators (and this includes teachers, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and all of Granite’s special educators) feel they need to be on-call for parents and students 24/7. Not so.
Remember, you have a professional agreement that outlines contract time. Utilize the guidelines and work the best you are able during the regular contract timeline and then, shut down! Allow yourself to have personal time for self-care and for your family. Parent and student emails will still receive a returned message within 24 hours, which means responses can wait until the following day. Create healthy boundaries.
Brené Brown, leading research psychologist and author of five books on vulnerability is a great resource for anyone needing to find the internal voice that say’s “I Am Enough”. Visit Brown’s website which has a blog and podcast which may be helpful if you are feeling vulnerable and need validation that your courage during this time of chaos does indeed begin with vulnerability. https://brenebrown.com/blog/
We are all on the right track. Why? Because the journey is unknown from here and any direction in which we move is the right one, for now. When Granite district administration requested that principals make a list of expectations of teachers, including showing proof of student work, daily check-ins, and lesson plans, here is how one Granite principal responded:
“My teachers are professionals each working hard in their own professional teaching styles to ensure students are given daily/weekly opportunities to continue to excel in their goals of achieving higher levels of learning. I know their work ethic and they will be very conscientious in giving students the best education they can under the circumstances.”
GEA asks that all principals be like this one and trust the professionalism and hard work that all educators are giving to students. Hang in there – and remember to take care of yourself, and when in doubt, email or call your AdvoCats!
Earlier this week, while walking through my neighborhood, I saw many chalked messages like this one here. Each house had a variety of skilled artists, colors, and ambition, but the same message was shared, “you are not alone.” It was comforting to know that when my anxiety spiked and I couldn’t stay another minute inside my house, that people (those I knew and didn’t know) understood and were there to uplift in these simple ways. GEA’s ambitions at this time is to do the same – to be present for you when you need support, available to answer questions, and to let you know you’re not alone.
We’ve received several questions and will attempt to answer them as we go along.
Question: As a special education teacher, will I need to make up service minutes for my students over the summer?
Answer: Your responsibility right now is to provide online learning for your students and their parents to the best of your ability. Videos via Google Classroom are a fun way to share information. You will track and document minutes of service and communication as best you can. If a parent believes additional service minutes are “owed” then it is up to the Special Education Department to navigate when and how those minutes will be provided. You may be asked to provide services during the summer, however, that is voluntary on your part and since its after-contract time, you should be paid for the additional time worked.
Question: As a classroom teacher, do I need to provide a DFL form in order to teach remotely from home?
Answer: No, you do not need to provide a DFL form. Simply meet with your principal and share your plan for remote teaching. Once your plan is approved, you should be able to work from home. There may be times when you will be asked to be at the school, for instance, assisting with the home packet distribution, etc. If you are asked to come in, please make sure you take responsibility for social distancing (6 feet from the next person). Be safe. In its update today the State Health Department recommends employers NOT request doctor letters from employees for remote work because this bogs down an already overwhelmed system.
Question: With remote learning, I feel like I need to take calls from students and parents on my personal phone. What are my protections?
Answer: Right now, we do not have lenience from the District for teachers to communicate via personal phones to students, nor is it the expectations that teachers communicate via their personal phone. If you need to call a parent, document the time you called, the subject matter you discussed and the length of the call. If you answer a call and it’s a student, politely ask that they send their questions to you via Google Classroom (or whatever platform you are choosing to work with). All communication with students should be kept to Google Classroom or Remind 101. GEA recommends you not use your personal phone or computer for work because doing so makes you vulnerable to accusations.
Question: Now that school is dismissed until May, is there a chance my pay will be reduced?
Answer: No. The District has not made any movement or comments to GEA regarding change in your contract pay. The effort teachers are making to provide remote learning for students satisfies your work requirements under the contract.
These are exceptional times. Your GEA AdvoCats are working hard to ensure that you are protected contractually and financially. Together we’ll get through this. Check back to this space for regular updates. Meow for now!
Dear GEA members,
The GEA office is up and running, but we are trying to work from home when we can, and follow the recommendations of the health department. Because of this, the best way to get in touch with Star, Cindy or myself at the GEA office this month will be email. You may still call and leave a message, but we will be able to return an email more quickly than we get a phone message in most cases.
Executive Director: Starleen Orullian, email@example.com
Associate Director: Cindy Formeller, firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Assistant: Shana Ellington, email@example.com
GEA President: Michael McDonough, firstname.lastname@example.org
We will respond to you within 24 hours, during regular school hours. All email correspondence is
Thank you for all of your flexibility. Stay safe, and stay in touch.
We are living in unprecedented times and the grief we feel around loss of normalcy and the anxiety of the unknown is very real. This article helps us to understand the emotions we may be feeling (or blocking). All emotions are okay right now – and GEA is here to listen, validate, and do what we can to support you.
Follow this link to a great article on grief and how this experience is affecting people emotionally >>
5 essential tips to structure your day in this unstructured time
By Kiesha Easley
Yes, it is possible to experience burnout while teaching online.
With the current surge in schools turning to the web to keep instruction going while physical buildings are closed, many teachers are being thrust into teaching 100 percent online for the first time.
This just in from NEA about what they are doing to help at the Federal level. Also provided is a handout 'Hot Resources' which hopefully will answer some questions.
Please call us, our office is open (for now)!
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Hot Resources: COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic
Dear GEA members,
Since the announcement Friday afternoon that Utah’s schools would be on a two week dismissal, and Saturday’s news that Hunter High would be closed for two weeks, we have received many questions from members wondering exactly how all of this will work. I want to assure you that GEA is communicating your concerns and questions to Granite district administration. We are working closely with legal counsel and district administration to protect teacher contract rights and health.
The GEA office will be open for our normal hours this week. This is an evolving situation, so there will be many questions as it unfolds. Let’s all go to work Monday and ask our building principals all of the logistical questions. Utilize suggestions from the Utah Health Department; if you are called to a faculty meeting, sit six feet from one another or ask for a space that allows you to do so, and of course wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your face. For Hunter High employees, HR has clarified that during the formal closing you will remain on paid administrative leave, therefore, you will be paid as per your contract without worry about accumulated sick leave.
As issues come up that are difficult to resolve at the building level, GEA is here as always. You will be able to communicate with us through all the usual channels. Continue to let us know your specific concerns. We will continue to be in close conversation with the district. I am confident that we can get through this if we all work together.
Some things to consider as you move into the coming weeks:
Teachers and adults in the building are more vulnerable to COVID-19 that the students who are more likely to be carriers. Therefore, please ensure that educators who are more susceptible due to compromised immune systems, pregnant, or elderly, are given considerations to tele-work. You might consider a rotation of adults in the building vs all being there at once. Be mindful of child-care needs and allow teachers to bring their own children should they have those needs. If teachers need to not work due to illness, use the model that businesses are using to not dock pay for sick leave, etc. Be flexible and work with your associations. Determine what policies might need to be temporarily waived to accommodate this unusual circumstance. Teachers are already hearing reports of inconsistent practices which adds to frustration and anxiety. Be clear in your communication of what is expected.
Classified employees are also vulnerable at this time. We would expect that you continue to pay your employees and find ways they might be able to help. For example, could bus drivers deliver sack lunches to kiddos on their bus route in rural/remote places as well as those neighborhoods where their only means of transport to school is by bus. Since you are receiving funding, you should still be able to pay your employees.
Our Board of Education meets this week and will be discussing waivers, policies, etc., that may need to be amended. We will send out communication in real time as the decisions are made. We have a wonderful compassionate board who will make decisions in your best interest.
Communication with parents is key. Individual teachers reaching out to students and their parents reassures them that there is broad concern for their students. This is challenging for the many families in some of our areas who don’t speak English and I know that you are already compiling information in other languages.
Monday morning will present new challenges and many questions. It may be confusing for students and families who aren’t tuned in to media. ( I have also heard and read some conflicting reports from the media). You may need to run bus routes just to ensure students aren’t standing at bus stops, etc. I know you have all thought of this and anticipated things I haven’t.
We are in this together and will figure it out. We’ve got this!!!!
Full Email Letter from State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson
Our very own President Mike McDonough has spent many Fridays up on the Hill at the State Capitol with our teachers sharing stories and talking with lawmakers during the Utah General Legislative Session.
Read more from UEA about Educator Day on the Hill >>