Baltimore TESOL Convention: Highlights and Learning

I attended TESOL Convention in Baltimore, Maryland earlier this month. It was the very first TESOL Convention for me.

I have this blog where I write ELT-related (more or less) ideas and experiences. The logical conclusion would be to simply share the experience with my readers. Well, I realized that writing posts about an event I came back from is harder than I thought it would be: should I write about each session I attended? If I do decide to write about the sessions, should I do this for content, or for ideas and thoughts, or for both? How long would such a post be in that case? If I don’t write about the sessions only, what else can I write about? Would it be interesting to read?

I then decided that I will make a small series of short posts about the conference, and this one will be the first one, the Opening Post, so to say, brining more impressions and highlights than details into play.

Highlight #1: the Plenary session by Aziz Abu Sarah on Building Peace in a Divided World – a speech I would (and will!) definitely watch again. Not just professionally, but also personally. Because (to me) the talk was far beyond the scope of the Convention, or the ELT field. Simple words, clear metaphors, moving life stories. To me, this plenary was naturally and skillfully combining the Why, the What and the How of presenting and sharing the message.

If you have about 60-90 minutes of time to spend, I recommend listening to the plenary (60 for the plenary itself, and 90 including the welcome and introductions, etc.) At the moment all the four plenaries can be found here .

Highlight #2: People! Sounds obvious, but yes, meeting, talking to, greeting, finding (and hugging!) people was the best part of the Convention to me. The three and a half days in Baltimore allowed me to reconnect with colleagues I have worked with in various places around the world (Korea, Myanmar, Lebanon, USA), the people I had only worked with online (with some of them, for a long time!), the people I had been planning to work together but that has not happened (yet?). Of course, I also met several PLN-ers in person — for the first time. We have been reading each other’s blog with Dawn Wink

By the way, have you already read her warm post about the Convention: Language, Culture, Identity and Love

We have been Twitter friends with Autumn Westphal, Laura Soracco and Matthew Noble   – and now we know each other in person (for real!), and I even had a pleasure to attend their presentations!

Highlight #3: SIT Graduate Institute, or School for International Training, or simply SIT. It is the organization I have been working with (distantly, face-to-face, on pilot and established projects and courses, etc.) for the last ten years. My teaching and learning philosophy, the beliefs and practices I value and share (and develop) were shaped by the strong academic background of SIT. Attending the reception at the Top of the World’s Observation Level let me feel the connection and reminded how fortunate I am to belong to this educational community. (Attending several presentations by my SIT/World Learning colleagues made me want to write a separate post on the sessions’ formats and content!)

Can you see the rainbow? From Top of the World Observation Level, Baltimore.

Can you see the rainbow? From Top of the World Observation Level, Baltimore.

Highlight #4: The theme of the Convention this year was ‘Beyond Borders’. The meeting for the first-time attendees on Tuesday, April 5th offered a simple task for us: say ‘welcome’ in your language. Yes, I had a chance to say ‘Ласкаво просимо’ (LaskAvo prOsymo) in Ukrainian. This simple idea of hearing the greeting in various languages made so much sense (for the theme of the convention, for the ELT world, for the world…)

[Note: Shaeley Santiago shared her own highlights of the Convention — similar number of points! 4 Words To Describe 4 Days At #TESOL16]

These were my big(ger?) highlights. I am also sharing a list of smaller Insights and A-ha!s, not categorized by the day and time but collected during the conference. Please bear with another list (and be prepared to read something obvious to yourself!)

A-ha!: Networking is a skill, and learning about it (some theory) might be helpful for events such as conferences. Non-ELT world articles can be very useful reading on the plane, e.g. Misconceptions about Networking on HBR by Herminia Ibarra

Reminder: small blank pieces of paper (A-6 size or so) on each chair before a presentation begins might engage the audience from the very beginning offering a simple practical task and a basis for a discussion (curiosity works!)

Confirmed belief: there is a little child [living] in every teacher. You have probably seen quite a few images like the one below from the Convention? Well, I was no exception 🙂 [Reminder to self: visit their website and learn more about the game and app!] 

With the friendly monster by http://wordsandmonsters.com

With the friendly monster by http://wordsandmonsters.com

Some Thoughts and (Self) Promises

– feeling ready to bring our RP Reading Club back to life

– would like to go back to my #50wordsTT and start Spring Collection inspired by the conference

– excited to explore the theme of connecting ELT field with other, non-teaching, areas, and bring more life to the lessons and sessions in this way (which might actually start by reading the book I bought at the Expo and could probably turn into a blog post — see the part below!)

– would love to watch some IATEFL 2016 online sessions, while they are still available online

Posts inspired by the Conference I would like to write soon-ish:

  • the sessions I attended
  • the sessions I would have liked to attend
  • the metaphors I am taking from the convention
  • what I learned about presenting skills
  • what I would have liked to know about networking skills
  • what I learned from watching IATEFL 2016 online

My Big (logistics-related) Question during the conference: How do you (readers) decide which sessions to attend? How many presentations/sessions do you go to without a break?

  • by topic (Teacher Education, Reflective Practices, Professional Development, Teacher Training were my priorities this time)
  • by presenters/people I would like to listen to/talk to, etc.
  • by area — location (2-3 in the same location in order to get there on time)

And another one, related to the above: once a session was over, another choice I had to make was either to come and talk to the presenter(s), exchange cards and contact details, or… run to the next session (where ‘run’ was sometimes almost literally, as the center was huge and some rooms were further away to reach). What are some possible strategies to use? What are some other Time Management tips you are using?

The final line for this post comes from Seth Godin: being surrounded by people on the same journey as you causes you to level up‘. I think conferences do this for us teachers. I think I like them for this reason.

Thank you for reading! 🙂