For the past two decades the Annual TESOL Convention has been part of my March calendar, but this year my attendance at the TESOL New Orleans Convention was special as it marked the achievement of a goal I’ve had for many years—being President of the association.
I attended my first TESOL Convention in 1992 in Vancouver just as I was finishing my PhD. From the moment I walked into the convention center that year I was mesmerized. The selection of featured and concurrent sessions was intimidating but there was something for everyone on offer. I had never seen so many books and teaching materials as I did in the Exhibition and it was in Vancouver where I got my first job overseas from TESOL’s Employment Clearinghouse. Since then I have attended 18 TESOL Conventions. In 1996 I was asked to represent my affiliate, TESOL Arabia, at the annual affiliate leaders’ meetings and it was at these meetings in Chicago that the thought of participating in the leadership of the association first crossed my mind. I continued to represent TESOL Arabia at these meetings year after year and got involved in the EFL Interest Section. Gradually I learned about the association by volunteering for committees. In 2002 I was invited to serve on TESOL’s Professional Development Committee and it was from my service on this committee that I came to the attention of the nominating committee who convinced me to run for the Board. To make a long story short, I lost twice before I won but in 2005 I was elected to serve as the Convention Chair for the Tampa 2006 Convention. Board service for TESOL is a three-year commitment and in those three years I learned as much about parliamentary procedure as I did about event planning. Both the learning curve and the workload were steep but Board service was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in terms of my own professional development. In 2008 I made my first run for President and lost! Undeterred, I decided to run again in 2009 and was elected, becoming the first person from the Middle East to serve as TESOL President and only the third person from outside the United States.
On March 19th during the Annual Business Meeting I was installed as TESOL President for the years 2011 to 2012. Quite frankly, with the exception of getting my doctorate it was one of the most exciting moments of my life. It was made better still because of the presence in the audience of many TESOL Arabia members and faculty from my own institution. Since then my life has really changed. My e-mails have tripled, I’m travelling almost every weekend, and I feel I’m making a difference for teachers all over the world.
Since my installation as President I have represented TESOL at conferences in Serbia, Malaysia, and Kosovo. In my conversations with teachers in these areas I’ve found that the issues affecting language teachers are similar to the ones that we face in the UAE, my home base. So in my first blog as TESOL President I’d like to hear from members about the issues affecting teachers in your regions.