Reflecting on the 6th iELT Conference 2013 – The True Story


Funny how one can feel rather disconnected at an international conference. Perhaps it was my fault to have set high expectations on the outcome of the event. Or, the fact that this was my first time at the iELT Conference which was rather small-scaled (having always attended the MELTA and ASIA TEFL conferences previously,  also the awesome KOTESOL Conference in 2012 where I met loads of wonderful, wonderful teachers (Alex GrevettAnne Hendler,  Josette Le BlancMike Griffin,  John Pfordresher, Gemma Lunn and many more, whom I immediately connected to!).

Hmmm……and to think of it, iELT Conference 2013 was something I PHYSICALLY attended. It wasn’t the virtual world. After all, I had the chance to interact with people face to face!

Yet I felt the “vacuum” in a lot of these interactions. It was almost like people reciprocated because they “had to”, or “for the formality of it”. No additional questions to build that professional relationship. Or maybe I had to be a plenary speaker for that, eh?

Absolutely ironic that I feel a great sense of belonging to a wonderful group of teachers whom I’ve never met, but have been providing such amazing support as we walk hand in hand in our own individual teaching worlds (my warm hugs and shoutout shoutout goes to Chuck Sandy, Barb Sakamoto, Icha, Kevin Stein, Rose Bard, Ann Loseva, Vladka, James Taylor, Barry Jameson and a whole lot of other lovely educators).

Oh, no no, don’t get me wrong here. Now, I DID meet a number of remarkably committed, passionate and intelligent individuals but the number was small. Wish I had met more!

So, thinking back (sorry for plagiarizing the word, Mike!) –> I came back with mixed feelings….

For these reasons (which are EXTREMELY judgmental and entirely mine):

  •  The most interesting workshops were the ones with the simplest, most workable ideas (Anthony Newman’s “Discovering your voice as a writer”, Woo Yee Saik’s “The voice of influence : Be a Trim Tab”, Moses Samuel’s “Inter-textuality in the classroom”, Derek Straat’s “Verb Tenses Live”,  to name a few). Simplicity DOES count.
  • The plenary speakers are well-read and very experienced in the ELT field, but whose speeches were B.O.R.I.N.G.  Nothing new, nothing enlightening. Good topic (professionalism and networking), but mostly very very theoretical (eg : what are the types of professional dev? DUH!). To my utter dismay, one of them just “read it out” completely from the notes. TEACHERS WANT OPTIONS FOR DEVELOPING. not theory. grrrrrrrrrrr. MOVE FORWARD, FOLKS. Learn a thing or two from the delightful Scott Thornbury or Ken Wilson.
  • I believe I missed an interesting plenary talk by Anthony Newman on “The 12 features of highly Effective Teachers”  ; my workshop was right after it!
  • Some interesting workshops were held during the same session, forcing me to regrettably chose one over the other.
  • Some teacher trainers (appointed by the Ministry of Education) were not as warm as I thought they’d be, rather arrogant and all puffed up (imposing their ideas in groupwork during workshops, walking in and out as they liked, not wanting to “listen”). Hmmm, makes me wonder how they work with teachers in school? Knowing Malaysian school teachers who can sometimes feel rather intimidated and small when working with “white people” (sorry for the rather racist comment but it’s really true!). Amusingly, their professional profiles weren’t that impressive. I ABSOLUTELY agree with Mike Griffin about avoiding to sit beside white guys above 40!
  • The international plenary speakers were very friendly. The local ones didn’t smile back when you did. They looked through you.
  • No one tweeted about anything.
  • Nothing much on tech-savvy teaching.

MY CONCLUSION : We need to move forward and keep up with the current ELT trends in Malaysia. The overall conference gave me the feeling that I “stepped back in time” in the world of ELT.

P/S : I had some great time during group discussions.

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Oh, and not to mention that the after conference street food exploration was explosively delightful! :)))))

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4 thoughts on “Reflecting on the 6th iELT Conference 2013 – The True Story

  1. Hello James,
    It’s such an honor to have you commenting on my post, I truly truly appreciate you stopping by:).
    You’ve just put forth my thoughts in your words – it’s just never the same without having your PLN around at a conference! At times it almost feels like a “professional family”. And yes, I would truly truly love to meet you at a conference sometime. Wouldn’t it be dandy if we could all end up at the same conference sometime?

    Ratna

  2. Dear Minie,
    Thank you so much for making your presence felt in my blog.
    And yes, you’re so right about why I missed AND David so much!!

    Hugs,
    Ratna

  3. Hi Ratna,

    It’s funny how a conference without your PLN just isn’t the same, isn’t it? Being there with people that care so much and whose lives you know, even though it’s online (and what’s the difference?) just elevates the whole event to another level.

    I’m very glad to be part of your supportive network of international friends, and I look forward to when we can meet at a more motivating and inspiring conference!

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