19 jul 2015 A community of giants
I will start this month’s post by apologizing, and for two different reasons.
First, I haven’t posted on RichmondShare since January, and I am truly very sorry for that. I was finishing my first book (yay!) and saying I’ve been really snowed under lately is putting it mildly. But I’m back – thanks for waiting! – and I’ll be sharing much more about the book soon (but it’s probably coming out in October).
Then, I also apologize for straying from my topic here today. I promised at the beginning of 2015 I would be writing about teacher development on RichmondShare this year, and the natural follow-up to my previous post here would be one on peer observation. That, I promise, is coming in August. Today, I’m afraid, there’s something much more pressing, much more urgent, that absolutely must be conveyed without delay: my sincerest gratitude.
In the past few months, I’ve had the chance to spend time with and learn from some of the most incredibly talented people in the world: teachers, of course. It all started in Manchester last April during the 49th IATEFL Conference, which I’m proud to say was my fourth. Well over 2000 teachers from upwards of 100 countries together celebrating teaching, learning and sharing. Amazing talks, the opportunity to rub shoulders with professionals of such high caliber as Scott Thornbury and Jeremy Harmer, and especially the chance to see what’s going on in teaching all over the globe. Refreshing and inspirational.
More recently and much closer to home, last week I took part in the remarkable 3rd TEFL Conference organized by Alumni, Casa Thomas Jefferson and IBEU, in Rio de Janeiro. I had the huge pleasure to attend absolutely riveting talks by big international ELT names such as Mike McCarthy, Jane Revell, John Hughes, Dorothy Zemach and others. But again – and as always, in my opinion – it was the teachers like you and me, classroom teachers, who really blew me away. For fear of forgetting someone (which would be unacceptable) and also to make sure I don’t exceed my word count, I won’t mention them all by name, but my teaching will be undeniably richer from now on because of them all.
Finally, last weekend, for the first time in my career, I had the unique (and unforgettable!) opportunity to see a teaching conference from a very different vantage point: backstage, as it were.
The 1st BRAZ-TESOL Technology Seminar was my very first event as a member of the BT board, and hence as a member of the team of professionals in charge of organizing it. Being a first-timer, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I couldn’t have imagined, not in my wildest dreams, how incredible it’d feel to actually see it happen. We were all so busy that, of the several plenary sessions, I could only really attend one, and I regretfully missed all of the mini-courses. Still, this was by far the most inspirational – awe-inspiring really – conference I’ve ever been to.
I can’t say for sure, but my guesstimate would be that there were at least 30 people working in the conference as receptionists, minders, organizers, box-carriers and so on, all of them selflessly working for free, single-mindedly committed to helping fellow teachers develop and have a good time. Apart from them, a world-class team of speakers both from home and abroad, our amazing sponsors (Richmond among them!), and a bit over 200 participants made this, at least to me, a weekend to remember. And experiencing all that, this time not only as a participant or speaker but also as an organizer, has renewed in me this acute awareness of the immense privilege it is to be a teacher, and to work with and be surrounded by teachers, a real community of giants.
After a conference – and especially after this conference – I can’t help but feel, every time I go to class, like there are actually tens (hundreds, thousands!) of my teacher friends walking alongside me, and helping me prepare and carry out the many lessons that are part of my daily life, and I thank you all very much indeed for the invaluable company.
I do hope to see you all in conferences all over the country (and the world) very soon, as well as in one the several equally delightful post-conference celebrations. Cheers!
See you in August!
I dedicate this post to a real ELT giant who, unfortunately and untimely, left us earlier this month. Paulo Kol was an extraordinary teacher based in Brasília – a very important member of our BRAZ-TESOL – and he will be sorely missed. While I personally didn’t know him so well, I knew him enough to say that his passing is an enormous loss to ELT, and truly immeasurable to his family and friends. Rest in peace and thank you for everything, Paulo.