Nothing better than an ELT conference such as IATEFL for all of us teachers and teacher trainers to listen to each other and discuss topics of interest in our field, re-think aspects of our practice, learn from more experienced teachers and give ourselves the chance to reflect.
I´ve been an assiduous IATEFL participant over the last 11 years. Yes, living in Brazil does make the traveling a bit complicated, but I´ve always thought that this was one of the best ways for me to develop professionally and have made a point of saving up and coming over to the UK to participate in the Conference every two-years
My first IATEFL was at Edinburgh in 1999. I´d been teaching for ten years, had presented at a number of conferences in Brazil and Latin America, but this was my first International EFL conference presentation.
What a learning experience that was! It was still in the days of OHT´s and handouts! (No whiff of power point presentations yet…). No one had told me about the best way to draw attention to the presentation, by associating it with a SIG stream and clearly defining the topic focus. The result of this was being sent to probably the furthest room available in the University buildings where the conference was happening and having four people coming to the presentation, which was on using Task Based Learning (TBL) in the classroom. Yes, you can imagine how disheartened I felt about this – only four participants and I came all the way from Brazil!!! But they were four very interested participants and asked a number of questions and made me really re-consider several issues regarding TBL. One of the participants was my friend, Janaina Cardoso, who was also a veteran in terms of IATEFL matters. She was ever so excited by the presentation and I couldn´t quite understand what she was so effusive about and finally she blurted it out: It doesn´t matter that there were only four people when one of them was Jane Willis – she counts for 100!
Jane Willis! Wow! THE Jane Willis whose books I´d read, but had never met before. That accounted for the really in-depth questions and suggestions of how to develop further the work I was doing using TBL with my teenage students. She even suggested that I had enough material to start a PhD research!!! Yes, so it had indeed been worth coming all the way from Brazil to present! (And in 2002 I actually decided to pursue my PhD research on TBL and in 2005 Jane invited me to present at the TBL Symposium held at the Cardiff IATEFL.)
This immediately gave me a very good understanding of how conferences such as IATEFL are fundamental for those us who have a passion for our career. It provides a massive opportunity for professional development, which arises from the very rich exchange which takes place between experts and novices – everyone willing to listen to each other. It is a truly democratic experience.
And this reflection today is largely based on the fact that here I am again at IATEFL and I can safely say that the buzz created before the Conference has actually started is fantastic. Technology has a lot to answer for in terms of bringing people together in virtual environments. IATEFL Online has been gradually maturing over the last few years and this year, apart from bringing a community together before the conference itself, via the discussion forums and the online Pre Conference events, it´ll be streaming the plenaries live to those who weren´t able to travel over to the UK. What could be more democratic than this?
But this shouldn´t surprise us at all – after all, education is about sharing all good things!
So, with the purpose of sharing as much as possible, I´ll be blogging over the next few days about the topics raised, the presentations seen and the plenaries watched.
I hope you enjoy the conference as much as possible and hope to see many of you there in two-years time!