Last week I attended my very first convention, which just happened to be the TESOL International Convention & English Language Exp. Not too shabby for my first convention experience! To be honest, it kind of felt like being thrown in the deep end of the pool not knowing how to swim. But hey, it could be argued that that is the best (and fastest!) way to learn. I wish I had been more informed and prepared going into this experience, but after going through it I feel inspired, motivated, and generally fired up about continuing to live, learn, and grow as a language teacher and as a human being. I will definitely be posting at a later time about some of my favorite sessions, but for now I just wanted to check in and try to put my finger on why the conference experience was so incredible. For me, the best part was being in the company of so many like-minded and incredibly inspiring people. So for those who have not yet had the convention experience (probably quite few in the twitter/blogosphere, but oh well), I present to you the top three reasons why I want to be best friends with the TESOL presenters.
1. These people are at the forefront of the field
All too often I come into contact with language teachers who do what they do simply because that is how it has always been done. Forever and ever. Sure, it is easy taking the path most-traveled. But what about everything that is happening in the field right now? As I write this, there is a teacher out there trying something new and awesome that they have never done before. And in all likelihood, they will blog, tweet, and share about it later. And then they will present about it at a conference! Or someone else will! This is why I tweet, blog, and will continue to go to conferences, because I want to be right there with the people who are pushing the frontier of language teaching forward. It is an awesome and incredible place to be, and anyone who is in that boat is someone I want to listen to.
2. These are people who collaborate
The presenters who I saw at TESOL not only had great ideas themselves, but they were willing to share. I did not sit in one presentation in which someone presented a patented, copyrighted method that they made sure to name after themselves. Instead, I saw presenters who urged us to try their methods in our classrooms, who freely emailed powerpoints and handouts, who encouraged me to email them to let them know my feedback and experience trying out their approach. The people who go to conferences are open to and encourage sharing; the cultivation and exchange of ideas creates this beautiful atmosphere of collaboration which is sadly missing in many education settings. I found the same type of collaborative community at TESOL 2013 as I found when I first joined Twitter, and I think the free sharing of ideas that takes place in these environments is an experience that is not to be missed.
3. These are people who are not content with being just “good enough,” but strive to develop and improve themselves and the world around them
I am still sorting through my notes, my handouts, the convention program, the powerpoints, the business cards, and my on-going emotional reaction to taking part in such an incredible experience! I am working on a presentation to bring some ideas from the conference to a Professional Development Day at my school, and in the process plan to share as much as I can here, with the readers and supporters who have always shared so freely with me. Thanks to everyone who presented and attended TESOL 2013, and many more thanks to those who were not there in person but never cease to cultivate the same inspiring, daring, creative, and collaborative learning environment in our world every day. I think you're all great, be my best friend?