Sunday, 25 November 2007

The English UK Teachers' Conference

The day didn't start too auspiciously. Actually, the whole week hadn't started auspiciously. My prsentation was still in a parlous raw state, and the dry run I'd given clearly hadn't worked. However, thanks to the advice, criticism and suggestions of my colleagues and the support and encouragment of others, I could clearly see where and why it was going wrong, so got down to the task, or at least trying to. Come thursday, however, it was still only distinctly three-quarters baked. I tried to work on it during the day, and late into the night, hoping that I'd have a few colleagues willing to give it a dry run through with me again the next day.
Fat bloody chance. Our regular team meeting went on, and on, and on, and - guess what? - on, and on a bit more, until half past ten had come and gone, and everyone said, sorry, we've got other things to do - with the exception of a couple of teachers, who graciously gave up their time to watch. It still wasn't ready, but I took on the advice proffered. Later on, after lessons, another colleague patiently sat through it and offered her ideas. To add to the stress and tension, an email came through from EnglishUK detailing which rooms we'd be in, and it appeared that I had swapped sessions with Adrian Underhill, so he'd be giving my presentation! I emailed them back to tell them of the mistake.
Anyway, picture me slaving away late on friday night, when I suddenly nailed the words and ideas that I exactly needed and rapidly made up a couple of class activities to go along with them just for good measure.
The trip up to London was uneventful, and I found Prospero House, where the conference was taking place, easily. It's billed as a state-of-the art conference venue, but it's not that wonderful, being a long, linear structure with the main hall to the back of the building, smaller - no, tiny - meeting rooms facing onto the main road, and a large hall for dining. I checked in and introduced myself to Mark Rendell, the organiser from EnglishUK, He gave me a copy of the programme, now billing me with the right programme. It was to take place in one of the largest of the rooms, with a bloody huge projection screen: The room itself was created by the nifty use of heavy wooden dividers in the main hall.
Anyway, after a quick scoot around the publishers' stands, it was time for the opening plenary. This was delivered by Paul Seligson, on the theme of spontaneity in the classroom. It was a neat, entertaining session, but it wasn't, for me anyway, anything new, apart from a good summation of techniques to allow spontaneity to occur in lessons. I was a bit surprised he didn't mention Dogme. However, for a neophyte TEFLer, and there were quite a few in attendance (there were 170+ delegates), I think it would have provided an interesting and encouraging summation of ideas.
Following that, I went along to a session on using dictionaries more effectively. If only. It was a pleasant presentation by a pleant presenter, but I learnt nothing new. More importantly, it was overrunning, and I had to make my excuses in order to get myself set up. I quickly went to the loo, and saw the huge queue for Adrian Underhill. By now, it would be fair to say I was bricking it. I took a deep breath, and went into my room. There were about fifteen people already sat down. I went up to the podium, found the computer, plugged in my portable hard drive, briefly panicked when I thought the computer couldn't find it, relaxed when it did, waited a minute and made a bit of manic patter, and watched as all of a sudden another thirty delegates walked in, most of them young teachers. And I began.

One hour later, as I walked among the crowd chowing down on the rather magnificent lunch buffet, I realised that a) people were telling colleagues about my presentation and b) I so, so, so NAILED it! My point about how the full infinitive in English has a specific function in certain contexts - namely, it suggests incipience - had experienced teachers giving out an audible gasp of understanding. Damn, I felt good.

This lasted until fifteen minutes into a spectacularly bad presentation I decided to join, and which was nothing more than an extended plea by the author to buy his book, when I had a sudden colossal headache and I just had to get out of the place.

All in all though, I felt I'd done a good job.

1 comment:

Marcus said...

Hi Paul,

Fabulous!

Congratulations mate. I wish I could have been there to see it.

All the best,

Marcus

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