Let’s face it – it’s been a tough few years. Educators everywhere could use a little recharge of their batteries. NYSUT’s Education & Learning Trust (ELT) is a perfect way for educators to re-energize their professional practice and discover new strategies for reaching their students.
“At ELT, we listen to our members and create learning opportunities that meet their changing needs,” said Jolene T. DiBrango, NYSUT Executive Vice President. “We strive to innovate and to provide learning spaces where educators can engage with one another and reconnect with what they love about teaching.”
These courses give educators new ideas and tools so that they can continue to make a real difference for their students. Plus, through a unique partnership with Empire State College, these courses can be credited toward a Master of Education degree. The partnership offers members a 40-percent discount and the chance to use up to 9 credits from ELT courses toward their degree. Upon completion of credits, members matriculate into Empire State College.
Here, we have identified three courses to renew teachers’ passion for their profession and recapture the joy of teaching and learning. Courses are offered virtually or in-person, and each is worth 3 graduate credits:
Discover your 'MAGIC'
Put the active back in activities with the ever-popular course, “MAGIC – Meaningful Activities to Generate Interesting Curriculum.” Based on the idea that the best learning happens when students’ brains are producing dopamine, the class introduces lots of engaging activities that will keep young minds activated, engaged, and primed to transfer new information into their long-term memory, said Randi Azar, ELT instructor and member of the Lawrence Teachers Association. “When you do these kinds of activities, it makes the learning memorable,” Azar said. Plus, they’re fun, and fortunately for teachers, Azar instills that same spirit of fun in her course, where participants are invited to write poems, songs, compete in games and build community. Throughout the course, teachers can shop for new ideas from an array of activities and resources all neatly organized by category. Everyone leaves the class excited to try new ideas with their students. When they are excited, the students will be, too!
Karen Merille, an elementary school teacher and member of the Brewster Teachers Association, created a video reimagining Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling" to celebrate the lessons she learned in Azar’s "MAGIC" ELT course. Merille said she often sings to her students at JFK Elementary School to get their attention and because they enjoy it.
Master the flip
More impact might be just a flip away, said Franca Fiorentino, an ELT instructor and member of Bellmore Merrick United Secondary Teachers. In her fall course, “Flipped Classroom to Mastery Flip and Beyond,” she covers the benefits of a flipped classroom and how to do it. In a flipped classroom, students familiarize themselves with new materials outside of class via videos, and then use classroom time for activities that reinforce that material or involve higher order thinking. Popularized during COVID’s forced shift to virtual learning, flipped classrooms predate COVID by a decade, and for good reason; they’re backed by research. “Students only retain 10% of what they hear, but their retention when they’re ‘doing’ is something more like 80%,” said Fiorentino. Plus, flipped classrooms can refresh flagging teachers because they empower students to take the lead. Fiorentino saw this in her own classroom, where students were walking in knowing exactly what they needed to do next. “They were revived. And if the kids are revived, the teachers will be, too,” she said.
Find your happy place
A happier teacher has a happier class, said Chris Conti, ELT instructor and member of the BOCES Staff Association of Rockland County. His class, “The Happiness Classroom,” offered for the first time this year, details numerous strategies that teachers can use to become happier and transmit that happiness to their students. “Today’s schools are asking their teachers to do much more with mental health, and they’re on the frontlines of this crisis, but most teachers are not trained to do that,” Conti said. Rooted in positive psychology, this 10-session course doesn’t wait until a student is in trouble; instead, the course trains educators to help students build sustaining habits like exercise, journaling, gratitude – habits that have been proven to ward off despair and insulate them against anxiety. The course starts with a happiness evaluation so that teachers can assess their “set level of happiness,” or how happy they feel on a regular day. Then, educators learn more about tiny changes that can make them feel more connected and energized, all well-grounded in the latest research.
ELT coursework is offered year-round and can be used for undergraduate, graduate and in-service credit as well as to fulfill Continuing Teacher and Leader Education requirements. For more information, go to elt.nysut.org.