I've been meaning to write about TESOL Macedonia-Thrace 2015 Convention for some weeks now, because I want my experience to be recorded.
It's been some years since my last convention-back in 2012-and I felt I had to do everything possible to attend this one. When it was all over I realized I had done the right thing. It was just then that it occured to me that the last time I attended a TESOL convention I learnt so much for the years to follow and a whole lot I had been using since. I realised that this happens with every TESOL convention. And I made the promise to myself to try and attend every TESOL every year. I hope I will be able to keep it!
A significant fact that made the difference for me at this convention this year is the people I met. First of all, old and dear friends. Then, people I knew from the social media but had never met. The feeling was unique! It was as if I had already known them in person for years. Last but not least, the new people I met at the convention. Exciting people with whom we communicate now almost every day.
So first of all, before writing about plenaries, presentations and workshops I attended, I want to make something clear. I may be able to report what I've seen and learnt but what I cannot do is convey the buzzing atmosphere, the incredible aura of some speakers, the interesting hangouts of the participants during the breaks and most of all I cannot convey the feelings. And all these are what make it such a memorable and definitely worth attending event.
Day 1: My day started with Marjorie Rosenberg's plenary "Getting unstuck: Stretching out of our comfort zones". Marjorie introduced to us many ways on how to keep our interest keen and develop further professionally. I loved her reasearch in the social media and the answers she got by colleagues around the world. It seems that everyone is trying out new things to evolve as educators and keep the fire burning these days. A lot of ideas were included in the plenary: using web tools,PLNs, ELT Chat, disabled access friendly campaign, Simple Engish videos, attending MOOCs and writing blogs among others. The presentation by Vicky Kostara-an old friend-and Katerina Kyriakidou "Let's follow Kavafy's footsteps" travelled us on a journey to the famous poet's works through the eyes of their students. A presentation which illustrated what our students can do with the right kind of motivation.
Margarita Kosior and Thomas Mantzaris in "Re-negotiating the Basics: Learner Autonomy", suggested in what ways we can foster our students' interest, engage them with the content and let their creativity flourish. The use of technology, games, the Internet, oral presentations along with peer evaluation forms, social media and other online platforms are some of their ideas in order to promote learner autonomy.
The next plenary by Alec Williams was amusing to say the least. "Bringing it Alive! Interactive Storytelling and the Early Years" made it so clear that learning certainly takes place when you have fun! As he quoted Strabon "Pleasure acts as a charm to incite the learning". He certainly brought alive many stories and made his plenary memorable. Dagmara Mathes-Sobocinska talked about gamification and how we can use game mechanics and game design techniques to make our students achieve a goal in her presentation "Changing the world through leadership skills". Many new ideas which I hadn't heard before and a lot to process after her presentation. The last presentation for the day by Aphrodite Giouri was one that touched me personally, because Aphrodite is a colleague in a state school -like myself-and it was a relief to see that there are colleagues out there in the public sector who work miracles. She talked about "Ten motivation success stories" motivated we felt indeed after her presentation! The presentation was full of practical tips and ideas. The Pecha Kucha was enjoyable and it came as the natural closing to a full and productive day!
Day 2: I couldn't make it before the first plenary which was "Only Connect: Seven Strategies for Ensuring Teacher-Student Communication in the Classroom" by Ken Wilson! A charismatic speaker, Mr.Wilson reminded us that Primary Education is the most revolutionary area in education-where all the changes take place-Thank God for this! He talked about ways to stay connected with our students whether we use the technology or not and gave plenty of original ideas to keep our students' interest! Lots of new things to try! The play by Dr Luke Prodromou, David Gibson, Aggeliki Markou and Maria-Araxi Sachpazian was a success as usual! "All the World is a Stage: Celebrating 451 years of Shakespeare". One naturally thinks how much a teacher and an actor have in common. A successful performance is a give-and-take between the actor and the audience. The same goes for a successful lesson. It is a game of interaction. After the lunch break the inspirational Vassiliki Mandalou provided us with lots of food for thought talking about the connection between Philosophy and Literature. "Practical Literature in Class: Discovering Philosophy in Disguise". The material she chose to use filled the room with inspiration and tranquility something that was also reflected on Vassiliki's voice and face! Marina Tzalamoura in her" Learning Difficulties: Dyslexia in Second Language Learning" talked about dyslexia in a packed room, something that showed how dyslexia is a porblem for educators and that we are all trying to find ways to deal with it so that they can help their students. She offered not only definitions and symptoms but also practictal advice on how to deal with dyslexic students. The last presentation I attended-because I had a train to catch-was "Harnessing the Complicated Phenomenon of Language Acquisition: Theories and Aspects" by Maria-Araxi Sachpazian. Maria is one of those gifted people who can talk about the most difficult topic and make it sound so simple. She said so much in so little time and through a flashback in approaches and methods made us think or re-think about the techniques we are using to teach-what we should keep and what we should change.
On my way home I was bringing back to mind what I experienced during this full weekend! I kept some notes for future reference and I sent some friend requests on Facebook to all the new, interesting people I had met. The exchange of comments and experiences after the convention kept the feeling alive for days. The communication is constant and I think we all look forward to the next event where we could all meet together again.