Saturday, March 01, 2014

Qatar TESOL Reconstituted

Last weekend at the College of the North Atlantic Qatar, I attended the two-day 10th International Qatar TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) Conference: Promoting a Culture of Reading. I generally have a nice time at such events, but I'm selfish. I look for ideas to steal. A great deal of work goes into Qatar TESOL, and it wouldn't really be fair to criticize it. I generally find something to take away.

On the first day, after chatting over tea and coffee, one of my colleagues and I shuffled around together with our gift bags, but, after watching the plenary session and a workshop called "Critical Thinking for ESOL Writing Courses" by Matthew A. Carey, our divergent interests drew us apart for the final session. Coincidentally, we ran into each other at the end of the event and compared our results.

My colleague, who is remaining nameless through no fault of her own, was very pleased to have ended on a high note, but confessed that she had expected more. Demanded it, actually. Of course, I have the same expectations: I want to be impressed. I want to be showered in epiphany, and I certainly don't want to miss the best sessions or the most engaging presenters. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work out that way. That is, perhaps, asking for too much. I realized that, even though I might not be watching an earth-shattering presentation, it often awakened some ideas that I had forgotten. Doodling on my notepaper and nodding into my Blackberry, I caught myself thinking about how I could modify my current lessons to incorporate some of the ideas that had resurfaced after having sunk to the bottom of my own trunk of pedagogic funk. This made everything seem worthwhile.

A conference is a gathering of like-minded people. On the second day, while wandering the hallways in between sessions, I ran into a couple of Omani gentlemen whom I had met at last year's conference. We were excited to renew our acquaintance and vowed to keep in touch better than we had done during the past year, and we might even do it. They commented that last year's conference seemed better organized, which made me inwardly happy as last year's conference was hosted by the Academic Bridge Program, where I am employed. I was, again, remined of something else that I was supposed to be there for: shmoozing. It's not all about adding ideas to the arsenal. It's about getting to know my own colleagues a little better and running into old acquaintances AND making new ones. I was doing it!

So now, after a week back in the office reading students' personal statements and writing recommendation letters, I've reached the coveted Spring recess. I'll be heading out to The Global Summit on Education in Kuala Lumpur with a handful of my colleagues, and I'm expecting to catch some award-winning presentations. They better be good!

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