Reflections on the 2016 NASAGA Certificate Program and Conference by Russell Brooker

This was my fourth NASAGA conference, but the first since 2000. I started with the Certificate program. It was amazing! Never a dull moment. The thing I recall most vividly about the Certificate program was the constant movement and learning something new every minute. It was a great way to meet people and learn about teaching strategies and techniques. One of the main lessons was how to empower people to participate, which began by empowering us to participate. I’m accustomed to demanding that students participate in the classroom, and it was interesting to be the one participating in the certificate session. The day was inspiring and invigorating. It’s really impossible to explain in words. Really, you need to be there.

The most important thing I learned is that everything can be made interactive. Anything you teach can be taught through an activity. I also learned about “jolts,” quick activities to get people moving and break up the pattern in the classroom. My favorite jolt was the one where the group leader interlocks fingers on both hands and moves his arms in ways that are physically impossible. I cannot explain it, but it mystified my students after the conference.

The most impressive thing about the conference was that it was FUN! We played many games of many types. My favorite was “A Paycheck Away,” about the difficulties of being extremely poor in America. The game was, appropriately, very frustrating, but we won as a team and all had homes at the end. I also played several “non-competitive” games. I can’t say that I ever really got out of the “kill or be killed” mentality, but I “won” all the non-competitive games, mostly because other players knew what they were doing.

My favorite line from the conference was the spirited assertion, “I’m less competitive than you.”

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