Background: next month I am co-organizing a ELT event which we called ‘Think Different’. There will be five interactive sessions conducted by individual speakers, and one more ‘special session’ which I hope to write about in a different post.
While preparing the event and inviting colleagues to attend, a lot of conversations about ELT events have been happening. One of such conversations with my old friend prompted me to write this post. Yes, ‘Part 1’ in the title suggests there may be more in the series (before the event, or as a reflection afterwards)
What’s an ELT conference? A very simplistic definition would be ‘a professional event for sharing knowledge/skills/experience/research findings and learning from what the others are doing’.
Who are ‘the others’ we are learning from? The obvious answer: speakers, presenters, lecturers, workshop leaders who are ‘leading’ the sessions and are broadcasting their ideas to the others. ‘Sending’ or ‘producing’ knowledge to the audience who is ‘receiving’ it.
A good conference has wonderful speakers/presenters, and people come to ‘see them’, learn from them, become better teachers with their help. A great conference has super speakers, famous around the world, etc.
A good speaker then is someone who has been in the profession long enough to be ‘teaching’ the others something, and/or ‘surprise’ the audience.
Does the above sound familiar?
I’d like to share my own ‘Think Different’ insight about this: it’s not just the speakers we are learning from at an event like conference or workshop.
A lot of ideas and ‘A-ha!’ moments come from the conversations with colleagues. Some of these conversations are a part of the conference sessions (‘please-work-in-pairs-and-answer-the-questions’-types of tasks), but many happen on the coffee breaks, at lunch, in the hallway, on the train home… A funny example from the recent conference in Kyiv: we had a great conversation with another speaker who had attended my session (including some feedback on the content of what I presented, discussing the project she was working on, discovering that we are both into mindfulness philosophy, and remembering people we might know). All of this was… in the line to the ladies room 🙂 (We were even asked if we are in the line, or were just chatting 🙂 )
Besides learning from the speakers and colleagues, a lot of insights may come from… yourself! Have you ever had moments when great ideas ‘visit’ you while you are listening to a speaker or are taking notes (pictures) of the slides? Sometimes the ideas are connected to the session theme, but sometimes they don’t seem relevant at all (and/or they may be helping you with a very different project you have been working on)
An example from the recent conference: I took a picture of the metaphor cards which were not the main focus of the session, and in the chat with the presenter after her session we both agreed that these cards can turn into their own session with a tremendous variety of activities and techniques to bring to students and teachers.
My beliefs about ELT events
- speakers are important, because they are courageous/enthusiastic/confident enough to share what they have been doing or thinking about within the chosen topic. These are teachers who have spent some time thinking about the topic, reading on it, experimenting with the ideas in their classes, and putting that together for a presentation.
- non-speakers/non-presenters are important: a lot depends on how you spend the time during the event, who you talk to, how open you are to the ideas and questions.
- You yourself/yourselves is/are important: a lot of learning from an event is in your own hands. Just like self-help books don’t ‘do the help’ but only offer ideas to the readers, a conference can only offer a thinking/learning space for the people who came.
- Based on the 1-3 above, knowing Why you are attending an event is crucial. Having a goal (or a set of them?) can be helpful.
5. Cultivating reflective attitudes may be useful (this article by Carol Rodgers is a #mustread)
Some final thoughts
- According to Wikipedia, a conference is ‘a meeting of people who “confer” about a topic’. They are people presenting and attending. Taking active part in the sessions, responding to questions.
- A good speaker then is someone who has been in the profession long enough to inspire the others to try something new or to think differently about a familiar idea.
- An ELT conference/event needs to be/feel safe and comfortable for you to let yourself learn.
- An ELT event does not need to be big and involve hundreds of teachers. I am personally inspired by
- Innovate ELT (Barcelona) and Excite ELT (Tokyo and Seoul) are great examples of ‘Think Different’ approach to conferences with their 10-min plenary sessions, long breaks, and networking time and space allocated during the day.
- An ELT event does not need to be a conference in its traditional meaning: think ‘un-conferencing‘, as this post by Cult of Pedagogy team invites.
Our EduHub team is organizing an ELT event for teachers next month. Not to promote a specific language school or a training center. Not to promise regular conferences in the future. We do hope to try a new(er) type of ELT events in our city, and hopefully, to inspire our colleagues from other schools and centers to organize other type(s) of ELT events. (that’s how ‘Think Different‘ theme was created). Most importantly, we want teachers to get inspired and realize that each of them has something to share and offer to colleagues. That there is a lot to learn from each other. (that’s why it is a Teacher Sharing
Thank you for reading (and… wish us luck in this first-time organizing adventure!)