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A trip to Halifax for TESL Canada Conference 2011, Pt. 2

TESL Canada conference 2011I’m not sure why I’ve always wanted to travel to the east coast, but when I learnt that the 2011 TESL Canada Conference would be held in Halifax, my determination to take advantage of this opportunity exploded.  Put on by the provincial affiliate, TESL Nova Scotia, the conference spread over three days, included over 400 attendees and speakers including Michael Swan and Roy Lyster, and organised several additional events to attend (lobster, anyone?). Let me take you through my Haligonian journey (did you know that was the adjective for Halifax?).

Special appearances by:
Bruce Russell, University of Toronto, New College (my colleague)
Julia Williams, author of Learning for Academic Purposes
Michael Swan, author of Practical English Usage
Roy Lyster, McGill University
Sheri Rhodes, Mount Royal University
Renate Tilson, TESL Ontario
Tania Pattison, Trent University
Huan Zho, York University English Language Institute

Day 1 – Wednesday, April 27

Metro Convention Centre
Location of the conference

The day started at 7am on my way to my colleague’s to pick him up for our flight on Porter Airlines.  A broken bottle and wine-soaked clothes later, we spent most of the day waiting for flights to finally take off (so much fog).  We arrived in Halifax at the Prince George Hotel at midnight.  After checking in, down to a local bar we went, open till 5AM, ordered New York pizza and staved off drunken skanky teen girls.

Day 2 – Thursday, April 28
Too tired (and sick with a cold) to wake up early and go to the symposia, I made my way to the excursion in the afternoon to Peggy’s Cove for lunch (lobster at the Sou’ Wester).  About 30 mins outside of Halifax, Peggy’s Cove is home to great stone fields and lighthouse in a small fishing community on the Atlantic ocean coast.

After, our bus led us to the small community of Mahone Bay, where multicoloured neighbourhoods met 3 historic churches.  What’s odd was the transition from freezing cold wind and fog at Peggy’s Cove to warm misty breezes here.

A hop, skip and jump back to Halifax where the President’s Reception was being held, Bruce and I decided to get some grub at the Wooden Monkey where we had a drink with Renate Tilson, go for a swim and hot tub in the hotel pool and hit the hay early.

Day 3 – Friday, April 29
Ok, the Royal Wedding was in the morning and Bruce’s and my presentation entitled “A new model for content-driven EAP” wasn’t until just after noon, so the number of sessions we attended before ours was…zero.  That last bit of pixie dust came in handy though as about 40 people attended.  Bruce discussed the theoretical side of the International Foundation Program and I the curriculum side.  To celebrate, I went to Michael Swan’s workshop on “What is Grammar?“.

We need to help students become aware of language too.

He showed how we could communicate with each other quite a bit with only vocabulary, but grammar decodes 1) complex situations; 2) causal, spatial and other relationships; and 3) anything beyond requests and affirmative statements.  He questioned why the need for grammar was so simple, yet the grammar we use is so complex.  One very insightful answer: language is a tribal identifier and the native speakers don’t want anyone else to be able to speak it perfectly but them.  Wow.

Next up was the buffet dinner by the organisers, which sat Bruce and I with teachers from Winnepeg, Vancouver and Lavalle and had some discussion with Julia Williams about the future of her LEAP text. There was a silent auction and some lifetime membership awards were introduced and given out during the food.  If you ask me, worst time to do so.  No one’s paying attention to that beautifully crafted acceptance speech you’re making.

Day 4 – Saturday, April 30

The Waterfront Warehouse
Lobster here!

So finally, on the last day of the conference, in the last time slot of the day came Coursetree’s session, “Customising web tools for EAP classrooms“.  Unlike the previous day, its preparation didn’t stop me from attending earlier sessions, including Tony Rusinak (Halifax) “Teaching Strategies: EAP in the Multicultural Classroom”, Huan Zho’s (YUELI) “Developing and Using Analytic Scales for Writing Assessment” and Tania Pattison’s (Trent) “Think critically, respond fluently: A discussion technique for EAP students”.  Two of them were impressive and worth the time to attend.  Just sayin. By the time 4:00 came, I knew with the conference winding down and a lot of flights taking off, attendance at my session wouldn’t be stellar.  With perhaps 15 – 20 people attending, including two of my colleagues, I was surprised to be approached by a woman from the Government of Alberta who was interested in my consultation about e-learning, an avenue

TESL Canada
Me, Bruce Russell, Stefan, Izabella Kojic-Sabo, Roy Lyster

I’m becoming more convinced Coursetree needs to develop.  I also ran into Sheri Rhodes after my session and congratulated her on a great webtools session of her own (thankfully we didn’t overlap at all).

That night, the TESL crowd went out for prepaid lobster at the Waterfront Warehouse. We sat with Roy Lyster to talk more about our program at U of T, as well as a few other passionate educators from across Canada.  Some wine, lobster, butter, chocolate dessert and discussion later, we went off to the Old Triangle to meet up with Michael Galli (President, BC TEAL) and his buddies.  A cultural local pub, the Old Triangle was standing room only (after we found a table) and provided an extraordinary insight into the city’s music, dance and community.  Very enjoyable.

At this point, the conference was officially over for another 18 months.  Next up for TESL Canada:  Kamloops in October 2012.  This is not where my Haligonian journey ended, but from this point on, it became a personal trip.

Thank you, Halifax.

To read Pt. 1 of this post, please click here.

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I really enjoyed reading all about your adventures in Halifax. The video’s were a nice touch. Sounds like you enjoyed yourself as well as learned some interesting things along the way.

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