Connections — TESOL 2016 in Baltimore

My #TESOL16 experience can be summarized in just one word – connections.

As a freelance teacher trainer, (very) part-time ESL teacher, and aspiring author much of my current day-to-day life is spent in front of a computer screen. So, at #TESOL16 in Baltimore, it was wonderful to be among “my people” – language teachers and teacher educators spending their time and energy engaged in professional development. At times simply watching attendees hurrying to another session was inspiring. So much dedication and love for learning under one roof!

Reconnecting with friends and colleagues from my old life in Japan, and teacher training gigs in Korea, Costa Rica, and the USA, was also wonderful. Life is taking us all on incredible journeys and I’m grateful that our paths crossed again!

In the “Twitter for Anyone” workshop led by Laura Soracco (@LauraSoracco) and Matthew Noble (@tesolmatthew), one of the tasks was to tweet out a burning question. My question – what are ways that students can use Twitter to improve their English? – was answered in 2 minutes (by @nathanghall). Two minutes! New connections were made and sitting in front of my computer screen seems a little less isolating now.

Conferences are good places to entertain different perspectives and examine our beliefs. (The definition of Dewey’s reflective attitude of open-mindedness.) In Aziz Abu Sarah’s amazing plenary, “Building Peace in a Divided World,” he talked about how his 18-year-old mind was opened by the caring and generous attitude of his Hebrew teacher. Education really can change the world, one student at a time.

I’ve also been making connections between my beliefs about teaching and learning and what I jotted down in the sessions I attended. Here are a few snippets (in italics) from my notes that I’ve been mulling over.

1. Whose (reflective practice) tradition is your reflection based on?
This question was raised by Thomas Farrell. He explained that John Dewey and Donald Schon, two influential thinkers in reflective practice, actually have quite different approaches to reflection. This is something that I need to clarify in my own practice and writing about reflection.

2. Usable. Delightful. Useful.
According to Nick Robinson, these are the qualities that all books should have. Now I’m trying to decide whether the book that I’m currently working on can be described as usable, delightful, and useful. And if I think it is, does that mean that everyone who reads it will think it is?

3. Teachers will change their practices but won’t be comfortable until their students are successful.
(a reference made by a presenter to a study by T. Guskey.) This sounds true to me, and I love the absolute positive regard it grants teachers. As a teacher trainer and writer, how can I help the teachers I work with serve their students’ learning?

1. Teachers Engagement with Research in Practice, Advocacy and Professional Growth. Wed. April 6.
2. Are Classroom Teachers and Material Publishers on the Same Page? Thurs. April 7.
3. Beyond Standards: What Success Stories Reveal About Student Learning. Fri. April 8.

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