I love going to Teachers’ Conferences. I always walk away with my head buzzing and full of ideas. They’re energizing and motivational, especially at this time of year when I need just a little boost of excitement about teaching to keep me going.
On Saturday I attended the Conference in Málaga organized by ACEIA (Asociación de Centros de Enseñzana de Idiomas de Andalucía). They made it well worth coming out on a Saturday morning. It was a smoothly run operation making it an overall pleasant experience. An added bonus was the mid-morning breakfast and the snack after the sesssions had finished. Both were really tasty and supplied generously.
I had a really hard time deciding which sessions I wanted to see. They all had something that caught my attention but I can’t be in two places at once so I had to choose.
Karen Muckey was giving a presentation called, ‘I am the Kid Whisperer’ and Bridget Hutchings was discussing TPR in her session, ‘Shake Your Body’ but I decided to start off the morning watching Claire Potter deliver a session called: ‘Harnessing instrumental and integrative motivation in the classroom to promote meaningful communication’. What I liked most about her talk was that she didn’t just present us with information, she personalized it and got us interacting in pairs and groups.
Claire started off asking us when we last learned something new, what motivated us to learn and what our strengths and weaknesses were. I thought this was an effective way to put us in our students’ shoes and get us thinking about what motivates them to learn English.
Next she had us take part in a few speaking activities that we could adapt to our own classrooms. I like the fact that she didn’t tell us how to set up and do the activities, she showed us how to do them by getting us involved. More and more presenters are using this tactic and for me it’s much more meaningful to have gone through the motions of doing an activity myself than to have someone describe it to me.
After the lovely breakfast, we went off to session two. There was a session on Demand High by Scott Donald, another about Mindfulness and EFL by Simon Pearlman and another on The Lost Art of Drilling by Hannah Beardsworth. What a difficult choice! At the last minute I went with being practical and decided to see what Hannah had to say about drilling. I was not disappointed.
I thoroughly enjoyed Hannah’s session, not only because of the ideas I gained from it but also the way she delivered it. She has a rather humorous way of presenting, using different types of voices and intonation. There’s energy in the way she speaks and it grabs your attention because you’re not really sure what’s coming next. Another reason I liked her session is that she included quite a few activities that I use regularly in my own classroom. Learning new things at conferences is great but sometimes it’s just as nice to see a presenter using the same routines and methods as you do. My first thought is always, phew! I am on the right track!
The last session I attended was ‘Observations from Observations: The 7 Essentials’, by Chris Johnson. Again, it was really hard to decide where I wanted to be. I could’ve seen Teresa Bestwick’s, ‘Raise Your Expectations’, but her workshop was aimed at first-year teachers. I almost went to ‘Classroom Management- Reflect and Plan Your Troubles Away’, by Michael Joseph Gibson but in the end I opted for Chris’s session.
In this last session, Chris got us discussing in pairs what he considers the seven essentials of teaching: Working in Pairs, Pronunciation, Error Correction, Recycling and Reinforcement, Personalization, Pace and Pushing Our Students. It was a nice way to round out the morning and reflect on these fundamentals of teaching.
Once the presenting was done, we shuffled off to the lobby area of the hotel for some refreshments. As I mentioned before, it was a wonderful and generous spread. We all had a chance to catch up with people we knew as well as continue chatting with people we had met that morning. It was networking at its finest. There was also a raffle (I won a little stuffed puppy I can use with my YLs- thank you Macmillan!).
I really enjoyed watching the speakers and I found the sessions useful, practical and thought-provoking but I have to admit that the best part of the conference for me was interacting with everyone in the lobby. My PLN (Personal Learning Network) includes quite a few people from Seville and Cádiz so we generally keep in touch using Facebook and blogs. Actually being able to see each other and chat in person is a luxury that doesn’t happen often so when it does it feels that much more special.
I think I could’ve stayed there chatting and catching up for quite a bit longer than we did but all good things come to an end. When it was time to go I definitely felt that Conference High I usually get after a productive and stimulating morning like this one. I’m already looking forward to the next conference coming up. I may be a conference junkie.
For more information about the ACEIA conference and the speakers I’ve mentioned, check out their web page:
If you have that Conference High and want to keep reading more about them, Mike Griffin has just published a series of posts on his blog related to ELT conferences:
Please share your experiences with the Conference High in the comments section. It’d be great to hear from you!