I applied for the Cactus IATEFL scholarship for two reasons: I am a newly-qualified teacher looking to develop the skills I already have and to prevent myself becoming an island in a big teaching world.
In the introductory speech, IATEFL president Herbert Puchta proclaimed that “this is going to be a fantastic conference!” His words were heart-warming – he not only seemed to be talking about the programme but also about the amount and range of people who had come to the IATEFL conference. I looked around me – in front of me I could hear Dutch, French and Italian being spoken, to my right Japanese and to my left: Russian. These were all teachers of English! This was my second day at IATEFL as I had already attended a SIG (Special Interest Group) event the day before and it was just beginning to dawn on me how much there was to do and to see: the choice is overwhelming particularly if you are a first-time conference visitor.
I met up with colleagues later to discuss our choices of sessions and workshops. A useful lesson is to ‘keep it relevant’ I found out. I made decisions about what I wanted to do and see that I felt would be useful to my development now or in the next year.But relevant to what exactly? My own school – a Dutch Montessori secondary school with a creative profile – is there another school like it in the whole world?), my professional development, the development of young people generally? I needn’t have worried – I was in the right place and easily filled the four day conference with plenaries, discussions, talks and workshops not to mention conversations with other teachers and student teachers that I met at IATEFL.
The Conference I planned for myself spanned, amongst other things; Child and teenage development (Sue Palmer), learning to learn (Bonnie Tsai) and Hyperlink Heroin (Jim Scrivener). I learnt how to present, how to analyse and talk about literature, how to teach thinking, how to approach my Master’s course, how to use Moodle for a range of different practices and to use and embed sound files.
The mood of the Conference was a positive, creative and happy one. Everyone who was there, wanted to be there – it was no small under-taking for some who had travelled a very long way. This became evident at the Scholar’s Tea on Saturday when we had the chance to meet other prize-winners and their sponsors. More than twenty countries were represented: it was a proud and happy moment and I was glad that Cactus had given me the opportunity to be a part of it.