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IATEFL bite-sized sessions notes

I took photos of slides. I tweeted. I gave up and simply listened intensely. I typed up notes on my laptop. I switched to my iPad or phone. I sat in the back. I sat in the front row. I sat near the wall. I participated with others. I avoided participating. IATEFL sessions ran the gamut of circumstances for me. My takeaways from them, likewise, aren’t necessarily the intended point by the presenter, but what spoke to me.

Opening reception
Outgoing IATEFL president, Carol Read, welcomed long-distance fundraising cyclists to Manchester and followed with an enthusiastic oral embrace to all attendees in the room at the Manchester Central Convention Complex. I’d never heard her speak before but the crinkle in her nose when she smiled so sincerely and the joy in her voice as she spoke endeared her like she was my favourite teacher ever–a welcome counter to the abrupt ‘shush’ I received from another woman who seemed to ignore evidence of the chatter-filled hum that surrounded her. Then again at the opening plenary, Carol’s story of a mother mouse fending off a cat because of her foreign language ability only reinforced my admiration.


Donald Freeman (University of Michigan), opening plenary
IMG_0824If I said this image commented on language proficiency within the classroom our learners demonstrate, what commentary would you believe it represented? I’ll give you a second to click on the photo and really look at it… This is what I took away from the entire plenary: like how we can see a segment of the landscape from within this suitcase sculpture, the language proficiency our learners show us in class is part of, but not representative of the entire proficiency they have (or need) outside the classroom. Then he talked about skateboards and lost me.

IMG_0864Willy Cardoso’s talk on challenges in initial teacher training course design
I consider Willy a friend, a peer, and a guy whose investment in our industry is admirable, but he’s also somehow managed to escape leading a talk I attend, so I cornered him (i.e. I sat near the back in a room of 150 other participants). While his descriptions of teacher training course considerations and challenges kept me engaged,  the sudden appearance of a seemingly blank slide, which briefly interrupted his flow as he bowed his head and walked to the other side of the stage, exemplified how to keep an audience engaged. Moments after wondering what was happening, a clearer inspection of the slide unveiled words like ‘insert your own thoughts here for a minute’.

IMG_0899Luke Meddings’ people, pronunciation and play with the Queen
Queen E turns 89 today. “One wishes her … a very … happy birthday.” Insert gum into your mouth, clinch your teeth, tone each word sombrely, and you too can play with accents like the Queen’s. Through his masterful impersonation, Luke transforms pronunciation practice from simple mouth aerobics into lost inhibitions. Hilarity ensues. I imagine similarly in the classroom. In addition to our false regality, we acted annoyed, excited, and even like our L1 family members while saying the title of his workshop to our partners. Normally I’m not so engaged in active workshops, but this side of Luke mixed with a language point drew me in.IMG_0904

IMG_0926Harry Kuchah Kuchah’s ELT in difficult circumstances
We complain about uncomfortable or techless classrooms, but they are not difficult circumstances. From my office with my laptop, it can be easy to forget that the context ELT is for me, with my perceived problems, is not what the majority of language learners face, yet that majority is so grateful to be learning. Harry rose my awareness here. My takeaway is gratitude.

And then I went to, was engaged in, and left inspired by 5 times as many sessions and events as is mentioned in this post.

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Fabiana Casella

Dear Tyson:
Two words to describe your post: Simply Brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing these highlights of such an amazing conference! (Honestly, I LOVED your “hyper” way of “living” the talks!) :))

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