If there’s a film I enjoy watching this time of year it´s Love Actually. For me this film’s a winner right from the very start, with the opening lines narrated by Hugh Grant with his inimitable voice, when he says:
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. General opinion makes out that we live in a world of hatred and greed. I don’t see that. Seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy but it’s always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, none of the phone calls from people on board were messages of hate or revenge, they were all messages of love.
lf you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.’
It’s actually a film about voices for me: voices which are heard, sad voices, unvoiced voices, translated voices, misunderstood voices, voices which are ignored, voices which are brash and difficult not to hear, betrayed and betraying voices, frustration-filled voices and, of course, love-filled voices.
A voice which we cannot help but hear is Natalie´s, with her simple: “If you can´t say it at Christmas, when can you, eh?”
This sentence resonates (maybe because it’s simply such a good idea all in all) and it gives me a perfect excuse to round off the year with a blog post (and it´s a pretty long blog post, so get ready) which sort of pays tribute to & thanks everyone within the field of ELT who has contributed to making the year of 2010 a very special “learning” year for me.
I’ve been a regular IATEFL participant since 1998. I can say beyond a shadow of doubt that this year´s conference was possibly the best I’ve attended so far.
It was excellent on several levels: in terms of its organization, the choice of conference venue, the plenary speakers and the quality of the concurrent sessions. I learnt a great deal from colleagues working in Europe, within a traditional EFL context, but also from colleagues from different continents, who showed me what it means to work in challenging or difficult circumstances. In these sessions the art of teaching and what it means to be an educator was voiced loud and clear.
But equally important was what happened online. Harrogate online was a brilliant resource which allowed people at the conference, as well as those who were unable to attend, to get a glimpse of what was taking place. It allowed me to discuss Tessa Woodward´s plenary with colleagues who hadn´t gone to the conference. Thanks to the tremendous effort put in by all who were directly involved in the planning, development and implementation of Harrogate online.
With free wi-fi and the use of Twitter we created a community at IATEFL which has now become the basis of my PLN. I know many people are still skeptical about the use of Twitter during conferences. Quite frankly, if you want to see collaboratively learning taking place on a microgenetic level (Vygostsky at his best), all you needed to do was to follow the #IATEFL2010 tweets and see the level of sharing we accomplished. It was phenomenal.
I was one of the people who organized the ABCI (Associação Brasileira de Culturas Inglesas) Conference which took place in July 2010. Its size was modest in comparison with IATEFL – we had 750 teachers at the conference, from all over Brazil, and we also counted on the participation of colleagues from within LABCI (Latin American Association of Culturas Inglesas).
My sidekick (and mentor) in all stages of the organization was Bob Lewis, a dear friend and colleague who’s taught me a lot. The organization of the conference actually began in September 2009. Over lunch with Jeremy Harmer, Bob and I made our first plenary speaker invitation and Jeremy very kindly jotted down the conference dates. A few days later we confirmed David Crystal (thanks to the joint effort of Graeme Hodgson, British Council, Brazil, and João Madureira, CUP Director in Brazil). By the end of the year we already had all our plenary speakers and some special workshop presenters. My deepest thanks go to all of them: Jeremy Harmer, David Crystal, Herbert Puchta, Marc Prensky, Dave Allan, Ben Goldstein, Graham Stanley, Jeff Stranks, Paul Seligson, Jennifer Bassett and Hugh Dellar
Then we received the concurrent session proposals and the committee began analyzing and selecting proposals. This was when we knew we would have a fantastic event. The quality of the titles and abstracts was wonderful: so many themes, so many different opportunities for teachers from around Brazil to share their experiences. The fact that it was raining torrentially also sort of helped: we were all stuck in this lovely hotel in Rio discussing ELT issues!
The conference raised its fair share of controversy (which isn’t a bad thing), it provoked pertinent discussions and it gave many of our younger teachers their first chance to experience a quality conference. This created a thirst for attending such events and many went on from the ABCI conference to the BRAZ-TESOL National Convention (which was also highly successful and I was sorry to have missed it, but exhaustion took its toll). It stimulated many teachers to send proposals for IATEFL 2011, many of which were accepted. One of our teachers, Raquel Oliveira, even won the LTSIG Travel award. My objectives were reached: to foster the desire for development, looking beyond our immediate working environment and seeing things from a new perspective.
To the teachers who attended the conference: thanks for sharing your practice with us all. Thanks for getting the Twitter bug and tweeting wildly during the conference! Thanks for staying for what probably was the first ever ELT Pecha Kucha to be held in Brazil! A special thanks to Vaddie Najman, Ana Paula Cypriano, Guilherme Pacheco for all the help with the event.
Good to hear so many different voices from within Brazil. Looking forward to ABCI 2012 (São Paulo)!
Rebooting the Conference: Moscow – Technologies & the IATEFL LTSIG group Round Table online discussion
In August I received an invitation by Graham Stanley to participate as a panelist in this online round table discussion on the use of technology in the language classroom. This online part of the conference was to be transmitted synchronously to an online audience (moderated by Graham Stanley) as well as the Moscow Unconference participants (Gavin Dudeney facilitating in Moscow itself).
This was a first in many respects for me. It was my first participation as a panelist in an online round table event; it was the first time I actually understood a bit more about the mechanics of an Unconference; it was the first time I participated in an event which brought together online and face-to-face participants. The speakers talked about their experiences with technology in the classroom (mostly the use of IWBs and access to technology) from their own perspectives.
I was able to learn a great deal just by listening to Kalyan Chattopahyay (India), Sophie Georgiou (Cyprus), Vance Stevens (Abu Dhabi), Nik Peachey (Morocco) and some of the participants in Moscow. We had 44 participants online at one time. This event just proved to me that education, teaching and learning can no longer remain the same now that we have a myriad of technological resources available to us. The possibilities are endless and it´s up to us to find purposeful and enjoyable means of using these resources.
I had always followed #Edchat on twitter and although the topics interested me, the nature of the discussions sometimes were a bit far from the reality of the ELT world. So, when the first #ELTchat started in September it was a very significant moment. It allowed many of us to really focus on the issues which were most relevant to us. Nothing can be more democratic than selecting the topic and then discussing it in two different times on Wednesday – this ensured people from different time zones could participate.
The quality of the discussion depends entirely on what we bring to it and on our very dedicated “moderators” (Shelly, Marisa, Jason, Berni and Olaf) gently reminding us of the topic and question in hand. A variety of topics were discussed, from oral correction, to the use of coursebooks, the use of L1, to teacher training and development. The addition of the podcasts added a new dimension to #ELTchat in October.
#ELTchat has become indispensable in my own development as a teacher and teacher trainer. Yet what I most admire about this is that every week we have the chance to meet new colleagues, teachers who are new to Twitter or new to #ELTchat and all of us contribute to the discussion in our own ways.
If you can´t say it at Christmas, when can you, eh?
So, coming back to my main point, I just wanted to have the chance to say a great big thank you to all my colleagues within the field of ELT for all the learning opportunities I’ve experienced this year. I actually think that the joy of being a teacher is that we’re always learning something new.
I must say that after being an ELT professional for almost twenty years, I’m so happy that I feel more passionate about my career today than I did at the start. I think it shows I chose the right profession. (God, and to think that at some moment in life I wanted to be a dentist! No disrespect intended to dentists, of course!)
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and fantastic New Year!