It’s been a few days since I attended the annual IATEFL conference online and although I am still busy processing all the information I came away with and despite it being online, it really was an enjoyable and engaging event. I would highly recommend attending an event like this – they were usually face to face at big conference centres where you could mingle with lots of delegates, collect books and leaflets or ask individuals for advice as well as, of course, listening to the multitude of quality presentations while absorbing knowledge and expertise from the speakers. It was cancelled last year because of the pandemic and arranged online this year ensuring a full and diverse programme that was available from your own sofa. This could have brought challenges of tech and being organised but the professionalism of streaming it online and the digital knowledge of the team meant it was pretty seamless in providing the usual high standard of the event.
I was involved a lot more this year than in the past due to two things. Firstly, I now volunteer as Joint Event Coordinator for a SIG (Special Interest Group) called TTEdSIG which is the Teacher Training & Education SIG plus I also helped with online moderating to help make sure the event went ahead as smoothly as possible – there were about 60 of us helping with this. These roles made it a little busy for me but incredibly fulfilling, meaningful and fun. Despite being busier than usual I did enjoy it and certainly felt these five benefits:
- You will hear all the latest, first hand from teachers, trainers, researchers, lecturers, specialists and all manner of practitioners on their research, thoughts, sector wide challenges and solutions on everything from language or pronunciation to classroom management or exam preparation. There is a full spectrum of subjects (clearly classified so easy to find in the brochure) meaning there really is something for everyone – you may come away with some great activities to use in class on Monday or some light bulb moments on language theory that will help with your teaching or own studies.
- You can make new connections and widen your network. This is so valuable however you work – freelance or with an organisation. You may meet (new) teachers on a similar path as you who mention similar challenges to you but who have some ideal solutions that you can share (or vice versa, you may be able to advise on some answers you have been working on). You can meet the speakers and ask their advice, comment on their presentation or add to their research – they often leave their contact details and are willing to share ideas. In a face to face environment there are staffed stalls that have info on materials, exams, careers or research and speaking with their team can be really helpful in gaining knowledge or inspiration – at the very least it is an opportunity to buy a resource!
- Meeting like minded people and gaining insight into what else happens in the sector may provide you with inspiration or re-energise some aspects for your own teaching or your career. It may show you what is in store if you take a certain path giving you firmer definitions of the next step such as places to work, type of work and / or qualifications you may be interested in studying for.
- You may attend the conference alone or with colleagues – I have done both. Either way is enjoyable and coming together to the event certainly helps with team building. You can share your experience and collaborate on what you have enjoyed or found useful.
- Following on from the last point – your employer may kindly pay for your conference ticket but expects you to assimilate the knowledge on offer in order to train the rest of the team (if appropriate). This happened to me for years as an academic manager which is how I became a trainer and trained our team of teachers. In latter years I have attended by buying my own ticket allowing more freedom to see the presentations I personally want allowing me to learn and develop my skills further. This year my volunteering with the conference meant I got even more out of it than usual – I worked with some wonderful colleagues, felt I really contributed and gained a huge amount of knowledge as I absorbed the presenters’ insights and information.
The timing of this conference has been strangely apt and meaningful because last month I resigned from my 9-5 to be entirely freelance and the conference reaffirmed my choice by providing interest, fun and energy while letting me (re)connect with others in the sector. I am excited to work further on my favourite aspects of ELT and support others in their journey with mentoring or training. Strangely enough, my last blog post was also about freelancing so it’s obviously something I’ve been thinking about for some time! I hope to speak with you soon!