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Affiliate News: February 2010

Affiliate News (October 2009): Looking at EFL Conferences From a Differing Point of View

by User Not Found | 11/10/2011

Looking at EFL Conferences From a Differing Point of View

Ourania Katsara, GREECE TESOL

Attending the TESOL Greece and other conventions can be an enthralling experience and what is important is to consider the question of what actually matters in teaching.

A striking feeling in the EFL world is that sometimes everything is about to explode in seconds. Is teaching a profession or a way to earn a living? Our mission as teachers is to communicate knowledge and ideas to our students. The interesting lectures and workshops offered at conferences may give us a helping hand in making our job more effective and fascinating. The breaks in between sessions are very useful because they are a great opportunity to chat with others in the same field. Some people like to paint a happy picture of the teaching situation while others find solace in talking about their teaching problems with colleagues.

What I have found most interesting in attending these conventions is that the main thrust of information delivered seems a godsend. The fusion of opinions and practices is a brainstorming activity that never ends. Personally, there are many times when I feel as if I don’t live on the planet earth. Individual reactions toward matters are unique. I have learned a lot at these meetings. I have learned that I cannot agree with everyone. I have learned that we are all different people with different foibles and that no teacher can teach a “tortoise” to walk faster.

Listening to various talks has made me reevaluate my teaching style. I remember when at one convention I heard something that really did the trick for me. One of the speakers spoke about a mature student who was doing a presentation. He said that the student made a mistake, a slip of the tongue, for which her supervisor scolded her. The student felt horrible, even though the presentation was excellent. The presenter then commented: “Just imagine the feelings of a 10-year-old if this was to happen.” Putting ourselves into our students’ shoes is vital.

Interactive plenary panels are also very tempting to attend. Questions raised can really make these meetings a resounding success. In one plenary panel, the following question was raised: “What is it that you want to get rid of in EFL?” Various answers were offered. It was only later on at the garden party that I realized that the person who asked this particular question was waiting for me to comment. He had attended my session earlier that day. At the party, we talked about it and I realized that people do get influenced by our enthusiasm or disappointments. I guess this means that it is important to be well and truly honest.

Book exhibitions are also part of this journey in teaching. I remember I was taken aback while I was rifling through different books. This lady said spontaneously: “Some teachers use books from certain publishers. This is ghettoism.” Teaching definitely should not provoke negative feelings.

The party in the roof garden was the essence of the convention spirit. At the end of the day, the final item on the agenda was to relish a nice glass of wine. Discussions were more relaxed. Even so, sometimes these discussions were very fruitful because teachers talked about human experiences in life that illuminate that human reactions are dependent on certain circumstances. The saying “words hurt more than swords” is very important to keep in mind, especially in the teaching situation.

What is my conclusion then? We teachers attend conventions and special interest group events because they are indispensable opportunities to exchange ideas and express our feelings. Our job as teachers is so multifaceted that any opportunity to expand our knowledge should not be missed.