A site to share and exchange ideas about English – teaching or enjoying it.

A ticket to knowledge

My friend Rina from Cultura Inglesa Manaus & me at LABCI 2011

To go or not to go? To which one should I go? Should I go at all? Who will be there? Will it be worth it? How will it change my life? … The questions are endless. It’s like any other decision in life: you must choose which way to go, and this decision may change the course of your life. Or not. It’s your call. Going to an EFL congress, seminar or conference is not that different. Nowadays the offer of choices is interminable, and the acronyms boggle the mind: IATEFL (my favourite), LABCI, TESOL, ABCI, BrasTESOL, TEFL, ELT, EFL, ESL… Oh, dear!

Yes, I can say going to an EFL conference changed my course of events. When I first went to one of such encounters I didn’t really grasp their magnitude. To me, it was an opportunity to listen to those people who wrote the books I used and check how different from the cover photograph they looked. Also, I made friends, had a break from home, had a few drinks – why not – learned a thing or two and came home with a few ideas to share with the colleagues who’d decided to stay home.

Over the years my perception of EFL encounters has changed dramatically. Well, I admit I still have the occasional drink, make friends and have a chance to see again the friends I’ve made along the way. However, I can hardly wait to put my little hands on the conference programme and search for my favourite lecturers or a novelty speaker bringing up a spicy topic. Conferences offer the EFL/ESL professional a wealth of windows of growth, but the choice to open them is totally yours. Going to a congress does not mean immediate development. Your attitude towards it will determine how much you will learn; your contributions are equally important, because being in the audience is almost as important as being on stage. A wise question asked to a savvy lecturer makes a seemingly innocent talk become a beam of light.
I have attended quite a few conferences so far, and each time get as eager as if it was my first.

Learning is forever magical, and learning about something you love is super duper. You see common people who eat and pray and cry and laugh and just live like you become superstars on the stage and reveal their secrets of the trade to you as if they were the crown jewels. And you love it all. You watch people speak about the latest trends, about what used to be ‘in’ and now is tops again, about what is in the pipeline. You watch a nobody become somebody after an awesome talk. The cherry on the cake is to get to see – and hug perhaps – those ethereal creatures whose faces you recognize from your study books… they become flesh and bone right before your eyes. Such a revelation! You’ve shared so many moments of your life with them over a book … and know you see them face to face. Wow!

This year I had my IATEFL debut. What is that? Over 2.500 EFL professionals under the same roof discussing the magic of learning and teaching. It’s contagious, poetical, romantic, totally inspiring. Noone can be impervious to that atmosphere of sharing. Once you’re there, your life changes. You are not the same again. My head was still spinning when I returned home. I had so much to talk about, to share, to offer to colleagues, to advise, to ask and to answer, to take in. So much I wanted to do. And see. And teach. And learn. And grow.

Despite being an experienced EFL teacher, I’d never been a presenter before, don’t ask me why. Probably sheer laziness. I was a first-timer at LABCI Paraguay, last July. Now I’ve discovered a whole new world! The feedback and the experience change once again and give way to yet a new vision: sharing what you know at a conference is the ultimate learning experience. The adrenalin, the anticipation and the thrill of “being on stage” fuel you up and it all feels extremely gratifying in the end.

I am totally in favour of going to EFL/ESL events. It’s addictive in a healthy way, because once you go to one it’s unstoppable – you just can’t get enough. What amazes me is that not everyone can see all the potential contained in themselves. A handful of people I’ve worked with would be great lecturers, but they seem to sabotage themselves and get convinced they have other fish to fry. Why not, I ask? We all can teach something to someone. You don’t have to be a gifted speaker to be a good lecturer.

What I can say is that now I’m a different person. I enjoy conferences like a child at Christmas. And I guess my enthusiasm has spread somehow, because since I’ve started to feel that way some colleagues have started to look at EFL events with different eyes and more friends have gone to great lengths to attend ABCIs and LABCIs. One way or another, there’s much more to us EFL/ESL professionals at conferences than simply meeting friends – we become better educators, we develop, we stimulate our brains and our hearts to work towards growth.

By the way, when’s the next event?

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Comments on: "A ticket to knowledge" (13)

  1. Hi Bete,

    What a wonderful post which fully translates the enjoyment you have when you go to conferences and, most importantly, the huge professional gain you´re able to obtain as a result of attending conferences.

    I would have to agree with you on the following: juswt going to a conference once is a rewarding experience, but going to conferences on a regular basis, changing your role: from audience to presenter, is where the learning curve really beings to quick in.

    And to answer your final question?
    Well, we have:
    – in São Paulo the ABCI Conference – July 13-15th, 2012
    – in Rio de Janeiro the 13th BRAZ-TESOL National Convention – July 16-19th, 2012

    Hope to see you in one of these events, or maybe even both?

    Valéria

    • Valéria,

      Thanks for the lovely words. Yes, one day while making my learning curve I hope to bump into you in a Pecha Kucha, maybe? Who knows? 🙂 The fact is we leave these encounters all fueled up, craving for the next. Not all addictions are bad, after all. 🙂

      Bete

  2. Bete, welcome aboard then. Thankfully, learning is inexorably unstoppable.

    • Dear Angie,

      You’re one of those who would be a huge success at a congress. Give it some thought, please. Your audience awaits you… Thanks for your words. 🙂

  3. Gisele Rebeca de Paola said:

    As always, you know how to use the words and make them perfectly
    contextulaized , magical, real.Thanks for sharing!

  4. Gisele Rebeca de Paola said:

    Wonderful text,excellent post:as usual:CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!
    HAVE A NICE SUNDAY!

  5. Dear Bete,
    First of all I’d like to repeat how wonderful it was to meet you again! And wow, first time as a presenter? You disguised it perfectly well, you looked as experienced as any “famous” EFL star, passed on as well as shared your knowledge beautifully and I’m so glad I was there being part of your audience! Certainly one of the most practical and clear presentations in this Paraguay LABCI 2011!
    Your writing, your comments, everything is contagious and makes us want more and more. Although we might be experienced, learning and growing is never ending!
    Now I know what to do when feeling tired, running out of new ideas or even demotivated: I will definitely revisit your blog!
    Thanks for the lovely picture, we don’t look tired at all!
    Refreshingly written, Bete!
    Yours,
    Rina
    xxxx

    • Dear Rina,

      thank YOU – you contributed to the presentation a lot – after all, you were one of our guinea pigs during the hands-on! Well, all I know is that I’m definitelly addicted to such events now and eager for more learning. Let’s keep in touch and keep sharing!

      Much love,

      Bete

  6. Gisele Rebeca de Paola said:

    Any time I see,hear,notice that there are still REAL teachers,the kind of professionals who really CARE about their teaching and their students needs,
    I feel like starting again with my ideals and my dreams and I forget about retiring,forget about giving up.You gave me the motivation I needed to go on.THANKS A ZILLION.

  7. Chris Dupont said:

    My Darling Guru,

    Your inspiring post has cured me once and for all of my fragile relationship with conferences, seminars, etc.
    When is the next event?

    Much love,
    Chris

  8. Dear Chris,

    You would make me a VERY HAPPY person if you went to one of these events with me – that is, if you’re not on a plane! Next dates, as Valéria put it, are:
    – in São Paulo the ABCI Conference – July 13-15th, 2012
    – in Rio de Janeiro the 13th BRAZ-TESOL National Convention – July 16-19th, 2012
    Hope we can make it!
    Much love,

    Bete.

  9. Bete, great to read your comments here on IATEFL Brighton and conferences in general. If you make it to IATEFL Glasgow in March, please come and say ‘hello’.
    All the best,
    Julian
    (British Council IATEFL Online Project Manager)
    http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org

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