And I’ve been to a few. Don’t get me wrong; I LIKE conferences. They’re the greatest places for adults to pretend they’re still in freshers’ year and/or summer camp ever devised. And if you’re lucky, you might even learn something/get some practical ideas for your classroom, for your teachers etc., apart from a workshop on “How to Pretend you don’t have a Hangover on the Second Morning of a TEFL Conference.”
But the Share Convention 2011 had something (as it always does) that set it apart from the rest.
Picture the scene – 600 delegates, all bright, young, enthusiastic teachers completing their teaching degree (called the “profesorado” here – this is essentially an MA in Applied Linguistics but a lot more practical) who had travelled from all over this massive country to share their ideas and experiences for two days.
So why blog about it – who cares?
We should. The other day on an ELT forum, I was arguing that it was essential to pay our teachers if we expect them to come to training. But then yesterday I saw 600 teachers who were training simply because they wanted to. Because it would help them with their professional development and therefore their students’ development – 24 hours bus rides, no pay and a late Friday night finish notwithstanding.
The conference culminated in a prize-giving, with the kind of singing, dancing and laughing delight in a sense of a shared professional community that can all too often be absent from the ivory tower of institutionalised native-speaker EFL.
To have this profession of ours taken seriously, we need to start having some serious fun. Start training our teachers like it’s the essential, educative, delightful and professional career that ELT is, and we’ll start producing teachers with the same dynamism and calibre as those I saw yesterday.
Isn’t it time we started helping our teachers understand and develop the value they bring to the world by making teacher-training sessions an essential part of the job, instead of apologetically offering a 1-hour Friday afternoon drilling workshop on the staffroom whiteboard?