Come On Baby, Light My Fire…

I tend to write my conference reflections as soon as possible after the conference for obvious reasons. (Obvious = getting old and forgetting stuff quickly)  I promised myself that this conference I would self-indulge, go only to the workshops that light my fire. Since the time I had to actually attend workshops was minimal (I was doing other things for the conference), I wanted to make that time count.

I attended no PBLA workshops.  I’m a little PBLA’ed out. Thursday began early with a long list of workshops/presentations I wanted to attend.  My first poster presentation was 8:30 am and I had the good fortune to be right beside Gonul Turkdogan, whom I had met virtually in TESL Ontario webinars.  We worked together right away to problem-solve her poster dilemma (ultra thick cardboard would not stay up with the puny thumbtacks we had with us. We ended up fashioning a kind of a noose with packing tape around the poster – we Macgyvered it nicely and it didn’t budge for the entire conference.). Gonul’s poster presentation was popular (I had poster-envy!); she was bright and engaging members with her timely and relevant topic on extensive reading and its benefits for our adult learners.  Bonus for me – I got to practice my (rather limited) Turkish with her.

People Power

Other encounters I had… I’m realizing now that it’s the PEOPLE that made the biggest impact on me rather than the presentations, and exhibitors hall.  I got to touch base with some of my favourite people in the ESL world – Nancy Van Dorp (and her lively LIT2T crew), Allison Keown, Sarah, Lynn, Sharon, Svetlana, Eva, Faith,  Diane, Rabia, Kevin (squared), Claudie… and so many others. Walking down the corridors of the Sheraton took me ages, because I’d constantly be connecting with y’all. I missed one or two workshops I had planned on attending because I was having a far more interesting conversation en route.

Let me also say that I’m humbled by the comments I’ve been receiving.  Seems like many of you know who I am (and I usually know you, but often don’t put name AND face together until later!) because of the work I’ve been doing with the incredibly talented TESL Ontario webinar team. It’s a little hard not to get an over inflated ego.  I joke that I’ll only sign autographs on my official O-Pee-Chee trading card… (hm, marketing idea – ESL trading cards. I can see it now – I’ll trade you my Scott Thornbury for your first edition Stephen Krashen…).

But seriously, the vibe at the conference was positive and hopeful.  The conversations were about the learners, and practical pedagogy. Even the AGM was calm.  The reception profiled not one but three amazing Sparks of Excellence awards winners with truly incredible accomplishments.  Also, Patrick, I meant to tell you that I love your shoes. I want them. We didn’t actually talk, but we will one day… And your colleagues cheering you on with mini-Patrick face-sign paddles was one of the highlights of the event.  Glad I was able to capture that on the live tweet feed (#TESL2018 on Twitter – just do a search and you’ll find a wealth of comments, resources, pics from the conference).

Tech Know – Tech Ya!

This year TESL Ontario put on a kind of a speed-dating educational technology gig, and I thought it worked nicely.  There were a number of tables set up with a kind of a menu so members could choose a tech-table they were most interested in – and rotate after about 15 minutes of the demo.  The participants seemed to be enjoying themselves. Some wanted more time at the tables – but hey, speed dating is just a taste, and I think the approach worked well. As much as I liked presenting at this kind of event, I realized I would have loved to have been a participant at some of the other tables.

Remote Success

I once saw a squirrel fall out of a tree.  Seriously. I heard a rustling, looked up, and whack!  Landed on the ground about three feet in front of me. He shook it off, and scampered back up the tree before his buddies could laugh at him, or balance-shame him.  It got me thinking – there this squirrel was, in his element when out of nowhere he takes a face plant into the ground below. As someone who is generally regarded as a “techie”, I know the feeling of thinking you’ve got it all worked out, but whack!  You end up on your tail, hoping the other squirrels aren’t judging you too harshly. And to be honest, they’re not. They’re just enjoying their nuts, and glad it’s not *them* pretending they meant to fall off the branch.

Friday witnessed a landmark in TESL Ontario’s conference history – our first remote sessions featuring the webinar platform we use in Tutela and a live audience as well as a remote one, for those that couldn’t make the trip to TO.  We had three such sessions, and I have a confession to make: I was terrified that the tech wouldn’t work. Ironic, given my assigned status as “techie” (see squirrel reference above).. I had nightmares about it – weird ones, I guess, not scary ones.  Like me showing up to moderate in my pajamas, forgetting that we’d actually have a live audience. But never fear, Diane Ramanathan was near. She assured me that I could handle the moderating of the live/remote session. Diane was right – the remote sessions were a success.  Our keynote Dr. Deborah Healey was a seasoned pro able to engage both audiences simultaneously. And the affable John Allan was his brilliant self – always a crowd pleaser on the webinar front. Glad to have had him present “live” so that he could connect once again to his TESL Ontario colleagues and friends.  The PBLA session that was our first remote/live experiment had a capacity crowd – but I got the feeling that most PBLA sessions were standing room only. I can’t say that for sure, because like I said before, my embers were burning elsewhere.

To round out my conference experience, I attended the LearnIT2Teach project update (super cool stuff happening in the near future with Onyx), then I let my colleague take me to whatever workshop she wanted to to end our day.  It was Jennifer St. John from University of Ottawa discussing her pronunciation class. Glad I attended, because I picked up a few ideas that I plan to use next week.

So, TESL Ontario #TESL2018 conference is now a thing of the past, but it was two packed and loaded days of stimulating conversation, chance encounters with some amazing people, and a head spinning with ideas to bring back to my learners.  I’ve got something of a conference hangover right now, but in a good way. To all of the tireless volunteers that helped out, a heartfelt thanks and virtual fist-bump because you smoothed the path for so many of us. Keep coming to the TESL Ontario webinars in Tutela so we can fan the fires of the conference spirit throughout the year.

Till next year.  I’ll be back. With my trading card…

This post was originally published on TESL London’s Blog on November 5, 2018 by Jen Artan:


10 thoughts on “Come On Baby, Light My Fire…”

  1. You hid your fears pretty well! I knew you would do an awesome job! The remote sessions are a great idea – glad all went well. BTW – I will ask Patrick where he got his shoes. 🙂

    1. That’s sweet. I literally wrote it while waiting for the VIA back to London. If you can make it next year, please come. Nothing beats a live event. Webinars are a distant cousin to the face-to-face event. And I love the webinars. I just love the in-person conferences more.

      1. Thank you for your reply . I agree nothing beats the real thing , I have attended TESL Ontario 3 times already and I have enjoyed my experience . But as I pay out of pocket I cannot do it each year.
        I do love the webinars too.
        Thanks again

  2. So now I can’t get that song out of my head! Thanks for the human summary of the event. I am hoping to attend in person next year.

    1. We look forward to seeing you back in North America! But we’ll still probably try to get you to present some of your MANY skills!

  3. Thanks for your reflections on the 2018 TESL ON conference. I’m with you regarding attending only the workshops that “light your fire.” Next year, I intend to follow suit. This year I attended a few sessions too many.

    FYI I really enjoyed the Teach Know session. Would love to see more of the same!

  4. Great reflections on the TESL Conference.

    I’m glad I’m not the only who sometimes feel like a squirrel falling out of a tree, haha.

  5. It was a pleasure to met with you at TESL Ontario Conference! Thank you for your help and support Jen! By the way, your Turkish is pretty good! Keep on practicing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *