Reflections

Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the conference, several things spring to mind. I had intended to go to several of the ‘How to …’ talks, but the early time slot in combination with late nights socializing meant that, despite my good intentions, I never got to any. Now with hindsight I see how useful some of them would have been and wish I had made the effort, so I’ve made a resolution to try harder next year. On receiving the programme I went through it marking all the presentations which seemed relevant to me. With so many to choose between, deciding which one to attend sometimes posed problems. At one point I had earmarked four presenters to go to who were all on at the same time and it was very hard deciding which three not to attend. I suppose that is inevitable though with so many on offer. I wasn’t organized enough to arrange with others to swop notes in a jigsaw arrangement, but this would be the thing to try another time. I’ve made the mistake in the past of trying to attend every session of a conference, although admittedly, I’ve never been to one which was longer than two days. This time, particularly as I knew that so many presentations would be recorded, I relaxed more and even missed a session if I was enjoying talking to someone, or went to a talk in a different field on the spur of the moment or on someone’s recommendation. In this way I attended quite a variety of presentations and found it stimulating to hear a range of different perspectives even if they didn’t affect me directly. Of course an international conference is more than a collection of presentations. It was wonderful seeing friends from different countries and online friends for the first time all together in the same place and also having the chance to socialize in the evenings. Working as a freelancer can be very lonely so this opportunity to feel part of a larger community was very welcome in that it provided encouragement to continue as well as many thoughts and new ideas to put into practice on returning home. One of the highlights of the conference for me in fact wasn’t a talk or a workshop but a theatrical presentation by Dave’n’Luke, the stage name of David Gibson and Luke Prodromou. Despite competition from both Jeremy Harmer and the British Council evening in the Royal Hall, over 200 people packed into a hall on Wednesday evening where the two thespians, together with a guest appearance from the wonderful Maria Sachpazian, demonstrated how dramatic techniques using voice, body language and presence can activate language in memorable ways. For instance, one of their sketches, The Bank Robber, which particularly resonated with the audience (‘Bank Robber: These are hard times. This is my morning job; I teach English in the evening.’) highlighted a specific grammar point (‘if you don’t give me all your money now, I’ll …’). They explained that the purpose behind the one-act play and sketches they performed was not just to entertain, although they were enormously entertaining, but that they hoped to inspire teachers and promote second language acquisition by both raising issues for discussion and encouraging students to get involved with drama in the classroom. They certainly succeeded with the former, as I was leaving I overheard another teacher saying to her friend ‘Well, that was inspiring!’ All these experiences make the expense of a conference worthwhile, and they look set to be prolonged for some time yet. Now that I’ve checked out the list of recorded talks, I’m thrilled to see that many of them are ones I’d marked to see but couldn’t and there are still many interviews to catch up with. So by the time I’ve worked through them and might be getting withdrawal symptoms, there could even be another conference on the horizon.