Positioning Local Thoughts into Global Dome
Shyam B. Pandey (email@example.com)
It was a great privilege for me to participate and present a paper at the 46thInternational Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) conference held in Glasgow, Scotland, as an IATEFL Gilian Porter Lodousse Scholarship recipient. It was a big moment in my life spent with almost 2,500 luminary English Language Teaching (ELT) delegates and millions of online viewers around the world, and perhaps I was the youngest participantat the IATEFL conference with a scholarship from Nepal. Though I had previously participated in other international conferences, the IATEFL conference has become one of the most memorable.The conference commenced on a high note one gloomy Monday on March 19, 2012.The event was grand in terms of its management,with wide coverage of ELT experts around the world and various ELT-related events in a single place. I was startled to see their well-planned management indeed. For example, if you wished to receive your certificate of participation/presentation, you just had to click on your identity card with a machine-readable tool, which took just 5 seconds to print.
Different types of presentations based on varied themes attracted participants in one way or another. The first plenary presentation was by Adrian Underhill, whose books I used to read when I was pursuing my Masters’ Degree from Kathmandu University. Meeting him in person was one of my dreams. His presentation entitled, “Mess and Progress,” was intriguing with its lively performances and highlights of traditionaland stereotypical teaching tendencies as well as post-heroic leadership practices. Another keynote speaker, Diana Laurillard, a professor of digital technologies at the London Knowledge Lab and author of the book Rethinking University Teaching,in her presentation entitled, “Supporting Teachers as Innovative Learning Designers,”highlighted that in the context of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), digital technologies can enhance the learning experience in many different ways—through analytical tools, online communication through text, audio and video, multimedia presentations, digital games, and virtual reality environments. She argued that teachers need to pay more attention to supporting the teacher as an innovator through digital and technological ideas. Effective use of technology in the classroom cannot be expected until teachers become leaders in innovation.Teachers need to share their ideas with the larger community so that they refine their ideas before applying them into the classroom. Another keynote speaker, Steven L. Thorne, faculty member at Portland State University and University of Groningen, stressed the efficiency of a usage-based model of second language development and the benefits of explicitly addressing genre awareness and pragmatic appropriateness in the language learning process. In addition to this, another interesting plenary was presented by Dr. James E. Zull, a professor of biology and Founding Director of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education at Case Western Reserve University.Talking about the brain-based model for human learning, professor Zull reviewed the growing knowledge of how the brain works while learning. His plenary revolved around lyrics of rock songs.
My presentation entitled, “Mentoring in ELT: Firsthand or Hoary Fashion,” was on the second day of the conference. With a group of participants from different parts of the world including India, Turkey, USA, UK, Malaysia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, I was able to shed some light on the discrepancies between Nepalese ELT scenarios and other parts of the world. Mentoring is a way to support, and sharing classroom problems and pragmatic solutions by an experienced teacher to a neophyte one. It varies in its form on which I carried out research in Nepal about the usefulness of mentoring, support, and sharing classroom problems and pragmatic solutions by experienced teachers to new teachers in educational institutions.The Nepalese teachers are aware of the benefits of mentoring, but they have not utilized it practically. In most Nepalese educational institutions, the academic coordinator works alsoas the supervisor. Neophyte teachers share problems with senior teachers only if they face certain problems. Otherwise, there is no cordial interaction between the senior and junior teachers in Nepal. It was great to share my findings on the dismal need for mentoring among Nepalese English language teachers since the need for such information is great among this particular group of educators. Participants were surprised to know my research findings because mentoring has already been established as hoary in most countries around the world, whereas my presentation shared that it is still in repercussion in Nepalese educational institutions. It is necessary to reshuffle the current Nepali educational setting with the use of mentoring.
After the presentation, I am determined to work further in areas where still not much research has been carried out in Nepal. Such as include how to fulfill the urgency of mentoring, how to develop mutual trust between mentors and mentees, how to separate the roles of supervisorand coach, and educating stakeholders that if there is a mentoring kind of system put in place, teachers’ professional development is enhanced.
Participating in the IATEFL conference makes one proud of being a teacher as we are audacious. Moreover, the IATEFL conference is one of the best mega events for any ELT practitioner, with more than 700 vivacious paper presentations, poster presentations, a book exhibition, symposiums, an interactive language fair, and job market stalls from different institutions of different parts of the world. The PechaKucha evening facilitated by Jeremy Harmer, a very well-known figure in ELT, is still fresh in my mind and is a very good example of a timely presentation with a particular theme. In this kind of presentation, each speaker presents a 20 image slideshow for 4 minutes, with each picture being shown for exactly 20 seconds and several speakers presenting one after another. Every evening was special and offered different typical cultural shows; sometimes in the ferry, Anderson Quay, or on the Clyde river bank, where I was treated to local cuisine and tipple, a pipe band, Scottish dancing, drinks, nibbles, and fun. The British Council’s networking reception also gave me an opportunity to mingle with different local and international delegates.
Networking was another mammoth component of the conference through IATEFL affiliate meetings and other different gatherings. Meeting different ELT figures in person such as David Crystal, Penny Ur, David Graddol, George Pickering and others, whose books I had only read, was the best experience of my life; therefore, I am grateful to the conference organizers who awarded me with the scholarship to attend. I am equally thankful to theBritish Council, Nepal, for their magnanimous travel support to the UK and Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) for its continuous support and mentorship.
(Mr. Pandey is a Country Coordinator of English Access Microscholarship Program, Nepal. He was a participant and presenter at the 46th IATEFL Annual Conference held in Glasgow, Scotland,in March 2012.)