Skip to content

Diary of a conference chair

May 24, 2013

TOSCON13 opened today. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. 3 years ago to the day, I opened this blog, my own source of professional development. For me, TOSCON13 represents both a beautiful reflection of the journey I started here in 2010 and a celebration of professional development we’re so lucky to offer everyone. I can’t believe it’s here. This has been a crazy year.

1May 5, 2012

After helping organise TOSCON12 with conference chair, Ellen Servinis, and the rest of the TESL Toronto board, as well as starting my term as TESL Toronto president, I am inspired to chair next year’s conference–a challenge I welcome.  One standout for me was that many of the large rooms at Sidney Smith Hall allowed for everyone who wanted to attend to do so: no turn-aways. Ideas are swirling inside my head for next year.

2June 16, 2012

I purchased 52, the first title from the round by Luke Meddings and Lindsay Clandfield. I like its point: exploring topics in ways untouched by coursebooks, encouraging critical thought, challenging students and teachers to consider topics that aren’t whitewashed. I spent some time exploring the round’s philosophy more. I’d like to become involved with it myself, somehow.

3August 3, 2012

I invited Linsday and Luke to be the plenary speakers for TOSCON13 next May yesterday. A day later, Lindsay has emailed back making my day, saying they are free then and excited about the possibility of being involved. Awesome!

September 28, 2012

Bugdeting time – guestimated increases based on costs from 2012. Not so easy considering I’ve never done this before. It’s a very odd feeling spending money.

6October 1, 2012

Opened the TOSCON13 Facebook event page today and started working on promo posters for it. Testing out some different logos too. Going to keep updating it as things happen in the preparations for the conference. I have to say, neither we nor the membership has utilised these pages well for past events. Is this a good way to drum up interest? Will anyone pay attention?

October 10, 2012

Lindsay and I discussed options for extra work while they are here in Toronto. He’s thinking about a small course apart from the conference. I wonder how I can set some engagements up and interest people while not discouraging them from attending the conference in the process.

4November 16-18, 2012

I’m in Paris at the TESOL France Colloquium, where Luke is also doing a session with Chuck Sandy–great stuff! It confirms to me that we’ve made an incredible choice for TOSCON13. We finally caught up with each other during the last 10 minutes of the conference to chat. He and I talked about doing smaller, more intimate workshops around conference time. Cool idea.  I also attended Tom Farrell’s plenary on Reflective Practice. Afterwards, I introduced myself and asked him if he’d be interested in working with TESL Toronto at some point in the future. Note to self: keep him in mind for conference.

5I’m inspired by TESOL France’s format, especially the opening day, which began in late afternoon with cocktails, one workshop and a plenary.  It’s dawned on me that this might be the way to go for our conference: combine the smaller workshops and my dream of expanding our conference beyond one day. I also loved the informal open mic evening and the post-workshop drinks–a fun, friendly aspect that is absent from our conference. We have to try to encourage this to happen in May.

December 13, 2012

My beautiful Roccopup passed away. I can’t concentrate on anything except grief or feel inspired to move forward with anything, especially TESL Toronto or conference-related. Feeling overwhelmed by it all, not sure if I can do it.

7December 19, 2013

TESL Toronto board Xmas meeting–very hard to keep my mind on happy thoughts, but even still, great things happened. Everyone unanimously voted in favour of adding a second day on to our conference for the first time–with Luke & Lindsay doing smaller workshops in addition to the plenary. I’m touched and inspired by this group of people, who without hesitation agrees to devote even more of their free time to help. I realise with such a team we can make something fantastic happen and I feel some renewal of energy.

January 30, 2013

It occurred to me that if we invited a couple of other big name speakers to do small workshops on Day 1 with Luke & Lindsay, we could accommodate more people to attend. So I sent Tom Farrell and Julia Williams an email to see if they were interested–these four could appeal to the most number of people since their areas are so different. Julia said sure, but Tom initially declined because of travel obligations. Thankfully, he’s ended up agreeing I think because we advertised his course at Brock University. Goes to show if you do nice things, nice things come back to you.

On this note, started considering nice things we can do at the conference just to make it special for attendees. Sit-down dinner on Day 1? Some drinks, maybe? Everyone loves giveaways. Lindsay’s agreed to sell us coupons for 52 to give away during their plenary. Another awesome! We’ve begun soliciting bursary applications for the conference too. I think we can probably do something for the exhibitors on Saturday too. $5 coupons to many? $50 coupons to a few? Things to think about.


I also booked all the large rooms with tech I could at New College and Sidney Smith Hall. Looks like we won’t have to require everyone to pre-register for their sessions online this time. Another cool side-effect: presenters can promote their sessions through blog posts and registrants will have plenty of time to think about which sessions they want to attend. Down with pre-registration pressures! 

Now, we need a venue for Day 1 – something that will impress and accommodate 100 people. I have an idea.

March 1, 2013

The Call for Proposals closed today. Almost 50! Plus, we booked Hart House for Day 1. People are going to be blown away… So excited! Now, Day 2 schedule is a challenge. We have to have two separate lunch periods so that everyone can fit into the dining hall that only holds 200 people. This means staggering workshops so some are in a workshop when others are not. Not easy.

9May 5, 2013

Three weeks to go before TOSCON13 begins! Opened registration online two weeks ago. Slow going so far. Worried we might not sell out. Not sure why. Wonder if people think it’s Victoria Day long weekend (it’s not)? Too much time to have registration open? People need deadlines to push them to register? Price? Two conference days instead of one? No pre-registering for workshops this year? Too much change for everyone to deal with?

Trying to make sure I have everything in order. Does everyone know what they need to do on the day of? Have I forgotten some detail that will glare at me the day before it all begins? Aaack. OK, I’m starting to feel the pressure of it all. 

May 23, 2013

Picked Luke & Lindsay up from the airport. Greeting them melted my conference anxieties away to reveal only anticipation. I’m ready! Let’s do this!

May 24 & 25

To view more TOSCON13 photos, click here.

May 25, 2013

It’s 5:00PM. I can’t believe it’s all over. It seems like it can’t be. Overwhelmed: proud, sad, happy, relieved, grateful.  Everything was perfect, absolutely perfect. This has been one of the most rewarding and satisfying projects I have ever been involved in.

My heartfelt thanks go to everyone on our TESL Toronto board for their hard work and volunteering their time over the past year: Ellen Servinis, Arlene Samlalsingh, Cheryl Fretz, Karen Thomson, Jennifer Harris, Nao Yamamoto, Chris Madden, Carolyn Bergshoeff, Jennifer Freudenthal, Joan Bartel and Aga Palalas.

Thank you, presenters, who led so many fantastic sessions over the two days.

Thank you, International Foundation Program of New College, for your sponsorship of Day 2 venues.

Thank you, exhibitors.

Thank you, Day 2 volunteers.

Thank you, Luke & Lindsay, for a plenary I will never forget.

Thank you, attendees. Without your passion for professional development, we wouldn’t have any reason to do this event.

See you next year for TOSCON14!

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Happy belated blog birthday, Tyson, and I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you one day.

Dorthy P. Chan

Thank you to everyone — volunteers, presenters, attendees, and exhibitors – who contributed to a fantastic spring conference!


You are your mothers son in the way you “keep a diary” on various things. I am my fathers daughter as he, too, did this on a daily basis (on a calendar), and my mother who kept a daily “blog” since 1935 until she died in 2008.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x