The first ELT conference I ever attended was the FELT Conference (Forum on English Language Teaching) in 2006 in my hometown, Recife. My friend, Tatiana Severo, convinced me to give a talk with her entitled Dealing with Taboo Language and Slang in Songs. I remember I was shaking from beginning to end and I also forgot to invite participants to ask questions in the end, instead I said: “That’s it. Thank you!” I spent coffee breaks with Tatiana next to me because I was too shy to talk to other people.
Six years later I attended the Braz Tesol National Convention – just 2 weeks ago. I gave a talk on Promoting Creative Thinking Through Classoom Activities. I was still shaking at the beginning, but my conference experience was completely different. There wasn’t a moment I was ‘left alone’. The incredible people I met and the feedback I received after my talk made this one of the best conferences ever.
I’ve learnt throughout the years the importance of attending conferences for professional development and I can’t wait for my next conference in… Paris? Santiago? Liverpool? Here are 5 reasons I believe English teachers MUST attend conferences. Feel free to add your contribution below!
1. Trends in ELT.
Six years ago, no one mentioned Dogme or the Demand High movement. Plenary sessions and talks are usually about trends in ELT and topics you might not be aware of.
2. Learning beyond the Staff Room.
Twitter, Facebook and blogs have helped us learn beyond the teachers’ room walls. Still, conferences are a good place to learn with educators beyond your staff room. It’s great to see teachers from different backgrounds share their knowledge and classroom experiences.
3. Sharing your experience.
Every once in a while it’s good to be ‘assessed’ by people you’ve never met. Although you might feel comfortable with your Dos or peers observing your lessons, it’s nice to give a talk and let teachers from different schools and regions see your ideas and comment on them.
Many people have mentioned that coffee breaks are the best way to meet new people and do some networking. I must agree on that and add that, from my own experience, excellent opportunities and job proposals rise from small talks. The after-parties are also great places to network. =]
5. Expanding your PLN.
Six years ago, social media wasn’t as strong as it is today. As soon as the conference was over, all you could do was hope to be able to keep in touch with some of the interesting teachers you met. In the last 3 conferences I attended, many of the people I met were ‘old friends’ from Twitter and Facebook. It’s a great chance to build and expand your Personal Learning Network (PLN).