In February I presented for the first time ever. My topic was exploiting L1 in the Young Learner classroom and I gave the talk/workshop at the ACEIA conference in Málaga. Later in March I attended my first ever TESOL conference, held in Madrid this year. This post will be about my reactions to both of these experiences.
I loved preparing for my session: researching, planning, getting advice from peers and rehearsing. It was a lot of work and required quite a large chunk of time but I really enjoyed the process.
I didn’t particularly enjoy the nerves I felt while speaking but I try to think of it as just a small part of the bigger picture. I wasn’t really aware of how nervous I would be until I did a practice run with a group of peers. Beforehand I felt a few twinges of nervousness and excitement but it wasn’t until I stood up in front of the group that waves of anxiety started coming over me. It happened suddenly and took me by surprise but I was glad that my first attempt was in front of a room of people who know me and support me. That meant I could mentally and emotionally prepare myself for when it happened in front of a group of strangers. I used breathing techniques and visualization to help me get ready for the big day. I also rehearsed my talk to the point of automation so that if my mind was tangled up in the web of anxiety during my session, I could still manage to get through it in a more or less coherent way. I think it worked or at least I like to think it did.
I consider my first presentation a success because I enjoyed it. There are lots of things I’d change and tweaks I’d make to the session before giving it again but I think it was a good, solid first attempt at giving a talk. I’m thinking about presenting again, although I’m not sure when that will be or what it will be about.
Presenting was overwhelming and exhausting but also exhilarating. I found that attending a large conference like TESOL was all of these emotions and more. I thoroughly enjoyed that weekend in Madrid but it felt like my brain was on overstimulation mode for a good 36 hours. In fact, I couldn’t sleep the first night we were there and I’m pretty sure it was because my brain just couldn’t shut down and let me rest.
This was my first experience at a big conference like TESOL and I quickly realized that when you’re not attending a session, you’re networking or looking at publishers’ material or even just trying to assimilate all the information you’re being bombarded with. Again, it’s overwhelming and exhausting but exhilarating.
I went to some really useful sessions at TESOL. I got lots of ideas for classes but I also had the chance to hear a talk on how pyscholinguistics can be used in the classroom (Belén Ramírez) and another on how Flow Theory and the Quest For Delight are related to teaching (Ceri Jones). The variety of topics and perspectives was astounding.
For me, the best part of the conference was seeing people I normally interact with on social media, some of whom I had never met in person. Getting to spend time with them and have real-life conversations was delightful.
I also met lots of new people and got to hear about their teaching situations and experiences. The vibe at TESOL was invigorating. It was one of openness and sharing. Conversations were easy to strike up and were often interrupted by the beginning of a talk or seeing someone you know. The extrovert part of me was in absolute heaven, although the introvert part of me was screaming for a quiet dark room by the end of the weekend.
The worst part of the conference was also one of its strengths. There was so much variety and so many sessions to choose from that it was frustrating. I found myself reading the timetable over and over again, agonizing over which talk to see because so many of them sparked some interest.
At the end of the conference I walked away with tons of information swirling around in my head as well as tucked away on a flashdrive (kudos to TESOL for taking this ecological step!). I also came away with a cozy feeling of being connected, supported and valued in my field. I’m looking forward to the next time I present and the next big conference but happy to have time to rest up and catch my breath beforehand.