Words and Images: 2014 TESOLers’ Reflection
TESOL: A Great Platform for Professional Networking
Madhukar K.C. Access Instructor, Kathmandu Access Center
Attending TESOL International Convention was, indeed, a long-awaited and much anticipated dream-come-true event for me. Since it was the first time I have been to TESOL, the impression I have had is indelible. Let me share a little about it!
I had heard a lot about TESOL Convention from the past TESOL attendees from NELTA community and the NNEST of the month blog colleagues who run a blog interviewing Non-native English Speaking (NNES) professionals from across the globe to contribute to the issues of World Englishes, NNES, EIL and so on through email correspondence(s). But after being a part of 2014 TESOL convention in Portland, Oregon, it left a lasting impression in my professional career. I had a lot of moments of astonishments to be with around 7000 teachers/teacher educators/TESOL/ELT scholars/professionals participating in such a huge leading ELT organization that organizes such a mega-ELT event every year. Another striking part was to see how well the events, concurrent sessions were organized for a mammoth participation of professionals from across the globe. For example: TESOL core sessions related to various interest sections, Poster sessions, Electronic Village and Technology Showcase Event, Master Student Forum, Doctorate Student Forum.
I have been attending the NELTA international conferences ever since I joined the association in 2007. But it was my first TESOL participation. As I was accepted for TESOL Master Student Forum, my anticipation to participate at the convention became possible by receiving partial grant from the Regional English Language Office (RELO), U.S. Embassy. My poster session on ‘Unsilencing the Silenced through Access Program’ was solely focused on the successful implementation of Access program in Nepal which has been implemented by NELTA since 2011. Other notable things that impressed me much about TESOL convention were; Research-focused sessions, TESOL as a professional networking platform, spacious exhibition hall for poster sessions, publishers, time management for sessions, management of ongoing concurrent sessions related to various events and interest sections, spacious rooms/ halls for sessions, discussions and meetings, learning how to present a paper from prominent ELT/TESOL scholars/experts i.e., giving a talk, present a poster session etc., how to organize conference events, how to get connected with like-minded professionals through networking, opportunities for volunteering as a good networking platform, cross-cultural knowledge and understanding, exploring some research issues i.e., on EFL teachers’ Professional development, Teacher Education, Teachers’ identities, NNEST issues and many more.
As I am a staunch believer on the power of networking for professional development, I found TESOL convention as a great platform for professional networking and enhancement. It was also a good moment for me to volunteer for few hours at Electronic Village Event and network with CALL experts there. As a member of NNEST-IS and a new member/volunteer for NNEST blog of the month, I had a chance to meet amazing NNES professionals/leaders Ali Fuad, Ahmar Mahbood, Kyung Hee Bae, Soonhyang Kim, Rashi Jain and NNEST of the month blog colleagues i.e., Ana Wu, Isabela, Ana Tristana. The contacts I have made with the like-minded professionals from across the globe are going to last for many, many years as I learned a lot from having professional conversations with them.
The sessions I attended at the convention were; English as a Powerful Instrument of East Asian Community Building- an opening keynote by Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies in ESL Instruction: How and Why, Increasing Learner Autonomy and Motivation through Blogging, Identity and TESOL: Directions for the Future, Teacher Career Cycle Trajectories and Ongoing Professional Development, Voices From the NNEST Blog: Envisioning Landscapes for Future Generations, “Am I an ‘NNEST’?”: A New Generation’s Identities and Perspectives to name a few. The opportunities to attend aforementioned wonderful sessions at TESOL helped me to explore various research issues and conduct research to contribute to the Nepalese ELT community at large.
Shyam Pandey, Country Coordinator, English Access Microscholarship Program, Nepal
Definitely, it was my first time participation as well as presentation at the 2014 TESOL Convention. Since I have been a TESOL member since 2011, I had a kind of dream to participate in any one of the TESOL conventions. I used to hear that TESOL as one of the biggest mega events in terms of number of papers presented and the number of people participation which I got an opportunity to witness this year. Actually, it was a privilege seeing the ELT practitioners from around the globe in a single platform. Participating at such a huge convention and presenting on two different papers were the important events of life, which I believe surely helped develop my professionalism. To be more specific, networking with the other ELT practitioners, sharing each other’s activities and attending different ELT related events were some other opportunities that I benefited from this conference. I had an opportunity to look upon my activities back myself and compare them with other ELT professionals around the world.
Though it’s very difficult to highlight all the sessions within this wonderful forum here to the NELTA community, some of the sessions that I attended were extremely relevant into my area of study in ELT. For instance, the session on Mentor: Text 2: Scaffolding Reading Instruction for Community College ESL by Sarina Molina, University of San Diego, USA was very informative where she reported a research study on scaffolding struggling ESL readers through leveled, culturally responsive texts. Similarly, the joint session on Flipping the ESL Classroom: Promoting Student Interaction, Engagement, & Learning by Danielle Petersen, Caitlin Hamstra and Alisha Fisher, Central Michigan University, USA was very helpful for me. Actually, flipping the classroom is an increasingly popular pedagogical strategy that can be used to promote English language leaning. In their session, the presenters emphasized that the flipped classroom can be used as a variety of EFL classes. I am sure the ideas that I have gained from this convention are going to be utilized and re-utilized in different nook and corners of my professional career as I go along in my life. Since I quite frequently visit different parts of Nepal as a teacher trainer of NELTA, these ideas will obviously be incorporated in the forthcoming training sessions/events.
Sagun Shrestha, Assistant Coordinator, English Access Microscholarship Program, Nepal
A Must-Participate Event- TESOL
Time management (punctuality), networking, presentation, conference management skills, and volunteerism, these are what I learnt as a participant of 2014 TESOL Convention in beautiful rainy city Portland, Oregon. I had got an opportunity to present my poster session with my colleague, Shyam Bd. Pandey on ‘Strategies of Learning English by the Young Learners’ of Nepal’ which explored different strategies that students adopt while learning English in Nepal. This is a research work carried out in eight different locations across the country. As we got a good response there at the venue, and have been getting response virtually, I personally feel there are still so many areas which we have to explore so that with good and healthy discussion, we can put forward the best suggestions to the policy makers.
When I was with around eight thousand ELT scholars representing different countries who had come to advocate their best ELT practices and get the best ones to take them to their countries, the first thing I felt is- we have a long list of things to be done as regards applied linguistics. We need to be more critical regarding classroom practices and on some other theoretical issues. Something that impressed me much was the issue of Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNEST). This sociolinguistic issue ‘language and identity’ albeit seems debatable, it has to be rightly addressed as it seems English belongs to all at this point.
TESOL, a brand for ELT International Conference can be the ELT globe where any ELT Enthusiast can traverse to imbibe the new ELT trends and choose the right one to update and make it more apposite in his or her context. The networking reality cannot be discarded. This is a world of networking and TESOL can be the best avenue to have a remarkable networking with the top world scholars! A must-participate event- TESOL indeed!
Babita Sharma, Rato Bangala Foundation, Patan Dhoka
The US department of State selected me from Nepal to participate in the US Department of State’s English Access Microscholarship Program’s Access English teacher Leadership Institute. Our program was hosted by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for World Languages. It was a two-week exchange program occurring before the International TESOL Convention from March 26-29, 2014. The workshop was focused on Teaching English as a Foreign Language and increasing participants’ understanding of U.S. culture and society. Program activities included hands-on experience in a university, local high school visits, and site visits to increase the understanding about U.S. culture and values, and opportunities for interaction with American teachers and students. This program provided me with some useful information regarding peer observation, extensive reading, project- based learning and many other theories and practices of English Language Teaching (ELT). The scholarship winners represented 23 different countries including Nepal.
After the workshop on Monday, March 24, we departed for Portland to attend 2014 TESOL International Convention. There were around 7000 participants and more than 800 sessions for us to choose from. The kind of sessions included key note speakers, invited speakers, discussion groups, Electronic Village, English Language Expo, Pre and post convention institution institutes, colloquiums ( invited speakers sharing a time slot together), poster sessions, practice and research oriented sessions, etc.
I had many memorable moments at the convention. Besides keynote and plenary speeches, I attended few workshops and presentations. Since there were so many workshops and presentations, it could be overwhelming trying to attend as many sessions as possible. So I chose the sessions that could address my interest and that were more or less relevant to my context. The important sessions I attend were; Overcoming Challenges to Formative Assessment Implementation, Promoting Learners’ Autonomy in Large Class Through Innovative Project Based Learning, Exploring Reading Instruction Alternatives to Motivate Adult ESL Learners (Extensive Reading), At the Edge of Learning: Observing and Transforming Teaching Together, Teaching a new word or Multiword Expression to Improve Retention, and Mobile Phones in Education to name a few.
Likewise, I presented on ‘Using Cell Phones to Teach English in Community Schools in Nepal’ at the Electronic Village Fair on the second day of the convention. By introducing participants to this innovative way of using cellular phones, my presentation gave them some ideas of how Dailekh School Project in Nepal uses cell phones; tries to help English teachers move away from rote learning; use listening exercises even when they do not feel confident in their own speaking abilities to help students become confident in their language use.
Among all the above mentioned ELT theories and practices which were discussed in the workshops and presentations, I will adapt some of the ideas, such as the idea of extensive reading, project-based learning, peer observation, and the idea of using authentic materials while revising my training plan and materials. As it was my first participation and presentation at the TESOL Convention, I felt as if my dream had come true. I am grateful to the Electronic Village at TESOL for accepting my proposal and I am also thankful to the RELO, U.S. Embassy, Nepal for providing me the scholarship.
Miriam Corneli, English Language Fellow (ELF)
Portland TESOL Reflection: Rain, Rainy, Rainier, Rainiest!
Our TESOL convention in Portland was a wonderful occasion to celebrate learning about ELT with our Nepali-American contingent. I have been to other international TESOL events and they always seemed very congested. The venue in Portland was incredibly spacious, well laid-out, easy to get around, and very pleasant overall. The conference was really well organized and had a multiplicity of interest sections.
In such a large event (over 7000 people attended) it is helpful to have a focus, and I chose “Pronunciation” and “Brain-based Learning”.
One excellent pronunciation workshop was on “The Color Vowel Chart” by Karen Taylor de Caballero and Shirley Thompson, and another, by Judy Gilbert –author of Clear Speech — on “Using the Prosody Pyramid.” Both of these systems use “prosody” and English stress and rhythm patterns to make English more decipherable. Did you know, for instance, that the most common vowel sound in English is the Schwa, which occurs in unaccented syllables? Without proper stress and prosody, it is difficult for the listener to catch the difference between “comedy” and “committee,” “eligible” and “illegible,” and “soup or salad” vs. “super salad.”
Judy Gilbert has done an amazing job of breaking these points down into manageable chunks, from thought groups, to words, to syllables, to the peak of the pyramid, a vowel sound itself. Imagine the confusion possible between these two sentences: 1. “John,” said my dog, “is intelligent.” 2. John said, “My dog is intelligent.” What makes the sentences understandable is prosody.
Next, the “Color Vowel Chart,” an excellent way to both practice spelling and pronunciation, uses colors as mnemonic devices to help students pair difficult spellings with particular vowel sounds. (Consider through, although, enough, bough, and thought, for example. In the Color Vowel Chart system, these sounds could be paired with Blue Moon, Rose Coat, Cup of Mustard, Brown Cow, and Auburn Dog.) In addition to spelling/sound correspondence, Taylor and Thompson make great use of physical movement to help engage the learners in embodying the accented syllables. Stretchy rubber bands, for example, make great mnemonic learning tools.
I will talk more about brain based learning in another blog, as time is short. I have listed below a couple of on-line options for learning more about these two amazing systems for helping us all master, and teach, the vagaries of English pronunciation.