NJEA has long worked to meet the challenges of the times to make sure that association members have the resources they need to do their jobs well. The 2020 NJEA Convention, “Together From Home,” is a prime example, delivering high-quality professional learning and an approximation of the convention experience to members across the state as the pandemic made the annual gathering in Atlantic City impossible.
Online meeting platforms enabled thousands upon thousands of members to participate and interact in workshops and meetings in a way that would have been impractical only a few years ago. More members, for example, were able to experience Ruby Bridges’ interview with NJEA’s officers than would have fit in Hall A of the Atlantic City Convention Center.
But this year’s convention was not the first time NJEA found an alternative way to meet its members’ professional learning needs when external circumstances interfered.
In the 1970s, the Energy Crisis, sparked by an embargo of oil exports to the U.S., led to skyrocketing fuel prices, fuel shortages and the rationing of gasoline. Gas stations regularly ran out of gas, and drivers waited in hours-long lines where gas was available. Nearly everyone, including NJEA members, drove their “gas guzzlers” only when absolutely necessary.
In response, NJEA launched a series of what it dubbed “unconferences.” One such unconference promoted in a 1975 edition of the Review focused on learning centers. The promotion read, “This unique ‘unconference’ comes to you in your class or home. You don’t need to travel, only mail the coupon below and it will be mailed to you.”
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter put on a cardigan sweater and gave a nationwide televised address on energy conservation, suggesting, among other things, that we set our thermostats at 65 degrees in the daytime and 55 degrees at night.
To do its part, the NJEA Environmental Education Committee promoted a do-it-yourself at-home environmental conference. “In place of its yearly statewide environmental conference, NJEA’s active Environmental Education Committee, with this article, presents an energy saving ‘At Home and School’ exercise in environmental awareness for everybody,” the promotion read.
But in the 1970s, conference kits mailed home, or a series of workshop exercises printed in a magazine, could in no way come close the value of an in-person program. When the Energy Crisis finally abated, these at-home programs went away.
This past spring, when attending in-person workshops was not only unwise, but prohibited, NJEA launched learning.njea.org. But unlike its 1970s counterparts that served as a stopgap measure during an acute crisis, these online programs will continue even after in-person NJEA programs resume. That’s because they have an enduring value all their own.
The best way to understand the value of learning.njea.org is to pay the site a visit. “Upcoming Webinars,” is a great place to start. If a workshop listed on the calendar, such as “Engaging Students with Autism in the Virtual Space,” is of interest to you, all you need do is click on it to get the details and register.
The tab “Session Recordings” takes you to an archive of workshops that you might have wished you could have attended but missed. If you want to learn more about “Best Practices for Synchronous Online Teaching” or “Professional Growth Continuum for ESP Part 2” you need only click to start the workshop.
The “Resources” section divides its offerings into three broad categories: Classroom Resources, Parent Resources, and Advocacy Resources.” The items found here—from workshops to important guidance and advisories—not only help you in your role as an educator and as a union advocate, but also offer resources you can share with your students’ parents.
What’s more, you can get timely notifications about upcoming webinars. To receive email updates, go to learning.njea.org/about, and click on “Manage Subscriptions.” This will take you to your profile page where you can check the “eLearning” box under “Email Subscriptions.”
While the virtual 2020 NJEA Convention has reached its successful conclusion, the learning continues at learning.njea.org. Be sure to check it out.