Does Anyone Know How to Fly This Thing?

By Ben Barham, Arkansas

Before giving you the highlights of what the Education Committee has been doing, I’d like to take a moment to marvel at where we are today. In a few long months, I feel like all the things I’ve generally relied on as certainties are, well, uncertain. As an educator, what can we say right now? Who are we? We are flying turbulent skies, in an old plane, over enemy territory, at night, upside down, and the flight manual just fell out the window. That’s what it FEELS like, right? The conferences and courses canceled, we don’t know when they are coming back, we don’t know how to plan because we don’t know what the future holds, and on top of everything else, we are suddenly IT specialists? Zoom gurus? Communications delivery wizards? Website content creators? Video conferencing facilitation experts? Finders of solutions? Islands of misfit toys?

Some of you were already these things, but whoever you are now, whatever you just read, said “Yes!” to, here is the good news – now is the time you and your skills are required. The judiciary needs what you do -all your talent, drive, energy, and ingenuity. People are looking for guides and teachers and resources. And we know how to do that!

How many times in your profession have you thought, “If I just had the opportunity, I’d seize the controls and start flying in the right direction.” Well, friends, welcome to your moment. We can fly this old plane right into the storm, and we can land it at our future destination newer, leaner, and more effective than it was. We’ll fix it in the air if we must. We’ve anticipated what has needed to happen for a while now.  

What judicial educators have accomplished through collaboration, invention, and sheer willpower is astounding and should be honored. Thank you for all you do to ensure that the judiciary is strong these days. You are heroes, even if you may not think it or receive recognition. You are finding the ways that the community stays intact, in touch, and informed. We are all in.

Your Education and Curriculum Committee has engaged in three separate areas over the last year. First, we have been working to create an RFP for the online Fundamentals of Our Profession Course. For those who have benefitted from this foundational training (typically offered before the opening of our annual conference), this course is imperative from the beginning of judicial education careers. It has never been ideal to provide the course only at the annual conference. We envision a more immediate impact by offering the Fundamentals course digitally. Now, more than ever is the time to make that happen.

Second, the Conference Committee engaged in our standard review of conference proposals. There were excellent proposals this year, and often those discussions are some of the most stimulating and inspiring exchanges I have. I’m very proud of the recommendations we submitted.

Third and finally, we have continued our callinar series. Our first callinar concerned a look back at the Myers-Briggs personality test and its efficacy in professional evaluation and training. Our upcoming callinar is symbolic of the overall change in our profession and society generally in that it is a “Zoominar,” where we will be offering Delivering Training & Education During a Pandemic. With the cancellation of live events, our work changed in a myriad of ways. Several colleagues will share the lessons they have learned in moving towards alternative education options. Attendees will be able to ask questions and share their own experiences as well. This ability to share experiences is the hallmark of what I believe we all want from our NASJE experience. We hope you will join us Thursday, July 30 @ 2:00 Eastern, 1:00 Central, Noon Mountain, and 11:00 Pacific. For more information, go to the Member Area of the NASJE website.

Ben Barham is the Director of Judicial Branch Education at the Administrative Office of the Courts in Little Rock, AR. He previously served as a law clerk to Judge Morgan “Chip” Welch in the Pulaski County Circuit Court and as a Deputy Prosecutor in the 6th Judicial Circuit. Ben serves as Co-Chair of the NASJE Education Committee and has been a member of NASJE since 2007. Ben received his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and his juris doctor from the University of Arkansas – Little Rock.