Oxford teacher trainer, Veríssimo Toste, reflects on his experience of the IATEFL conference in Liverpool.
It has now been several weeks since I was in Liverpool for the IATEFL conference. I have had time to catch up on work and to get back into my daily routine. This week I took out my conference bag and leafed through the various pages of notes, hand-outs, and promotional materials I collected during the week. I found myself reflecting on the conference and how much I had enjoyed it.
It was simply a pleasure to be around so many teachers. Listening to them talk about their students was both inspiring and highly motivating. Some of the ideas I wanted to try out for myself, and tell others about. There were ideas I already knew about but was amazed by what other people had done with them. More important was the excitement and enthusiasm with which I was told these stories. Being a great fan of class libraries, I was especially thrilled to hear how different teachers use readers around the world. I came out of each conversation feeling overjoyed about working in ELT.
I also realised I had learned about some possible future trends in ELT. I appreciated the focus on demanding more from students as a way to motivate them. This seemed to be a theme for many speakers – easy success is not much of a success at all. Many sessions focussed on how to help students succeed, including critical thinking skills, the use of technology, or the flipped classroom, among many other strategies – ideas that put the learner at the centre of their learning.
Unlike previous years, the different sessions I attended on technology seemed to emphasize learning more than the technology itself. Whether it was for improving pronunciation, for helping students with critical thinking skills, or for learning outside the classroom, it seemed to me that this year’s sessions recognised that technology is just another tool to support learning and that the aim is not simply the use of the technology itself.
I thought about this as I rummaged through my conference bag and realised the ideas and trends were not what made this conference special for me. I have come away from previous conferences with new ideas. I have always talked to teachers and felt good about sharing ideas. So, what made this conference stand out for me?
It took me a while to realise what I especially liked about this conference – and it finally dawned on me over dinner with friends. It was talking to people from all over the world. What a privilege! To share ideas with a university teacher from Colombia on classroom observation; to talk to a teacher trainer from Turkey who was nervous about doing her first IATEFL session; to meet people who I consider friends, although we only meet at the conference each year.
ELT people are ‘people people’ – they enjoy each other’s company and talking about what they do. I am delighted to be part of such a group. Bring on IATEFL Harrogate 2014!