As we inch closer to the 2019 TESOL International Convention, we are starting to see more and more of the many exciting events that await us. The TESOL Convention is notorious for providing a plethora of rewarding workshops, presentations, events, gatherings, and more. The first time I attended the convention, I felt like a kid in a candy store. There were so many exciting people to meet, ideas to share, and things to learn. As professionals, what more could we ever ask for?
While it is great to have a wide assortment of options and opportunities at convention, it can also feel slightly daunting to determine where to go and what to attend. There are a spectrum of ways that we can respond to this. We could not plan anything and see how the convention unfolds, or we could hyper-plan the entire convention. What I have learned by attending two different conventions is that there is a middle ground where we are flexible yet have some support.
During the 2018 TESOL Convention in Seattle, Washington, I created something that I call the Four Ys of the TESOL Convention. These are goals that I set for myself while attending convention to help me make the best choices in workshops, activities, and events. This makes the convention more accessible and personalized.
The Four Ys encourage the creation of four different goal threads, which include goals for yourself, goals for your supporting your students, goals for supporting your school, and goals for supporting your community. Together, these four goal strands provide a holistic guide for engaging with the Convention. Though all of these categories are different, they do intersect in many different ways.
- Yourself: You are important. Often as educators, we put ourselves last, and we put our students first. However, this is a time to focus on you, your passions, and your professional development. Make sure to create space for you to learn something new or focus on a specific area that most interests you.
- Your Students: What do your students need? What could you bring back to allow you to best support your students? From class to class and semester to semester, our students have different needs. The TESOL 2019 Convention is a time for us to gather new tools and techniques that we can bring back to our classrooms.
- Your School: Think about your school or institution. What is changing? What is growing? What could you bring back to help improve your school? This is a time to think about the future of your school or program. This is where we bring back skills and ideas to ignite growth!
- Your Community: Our classrooms are not separate from the community in which we teach. Think about the community in your classroom, in your school, and in the town where you work and/or live. This is a time to think critically about what your community is, what is needs, and how you impact it.
For this coming TESOL 2019 Convention, here are that goals that I have crafted for myself using the Four Ys (or Ms). Though these might develop and change before convention, they are a great way to start planning and thinking about my 2019 TESOL Convention journey.
- Myself: Currently, I am in a doctoral program though the University of New England in Maine, USA. Much of my work is focused on transformational leadership, community college, ESL, and leadership within the field of TESOL. I hope to find opportunities that allow me to explore each area to use in my dissertation.
- My Students: I work with community college ESL students in Massachusetts. As I continue to teach different levels and different courses, I would like to focus more on different assessment tools and ways of grading. I would like to spice up the feedback that I give students while also finding ways to save time when grading essays.
- My School: My community college ESL program provides credit for ESL classes. I would like to network with others that offer credit at their institutions. It would be great to learn more about the history of credit-bearing ESL courses.
- My Community: As an educator, I am invested in bringing the community into the classroom and bringing the classroom into the community. I am interested in learning more about bringing service learning into my community college ESL classes.
Another reason for having these goals, beyond just guiding your attendance at the conference, is to help you reflect before, during, and after the convention. At the end of each day and at the end of the convention, these goals help frame new learning and plans for implementation.
The TESOL 2019 Convention is a time to explore and grow. Crafting goals before attending the Convention is a great way to self-scaffold your agenda and make the most of this opportunity. Remember, this is just a roadmap. Though this map provides guidance, make sure to create space for caveats, detours, and pit stops. No matter where the road takes you, be sure to take time and reflect (and maybe take a few selfies—#TESOL19—along the way)!
Stephanie Marcotte is an AESL professor at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA. She is a doctoral student at the University of New England, where she studies transformational leadership within higher education. Stephanie is also the past-president for NNETESOL, a TESOL affiliate organization.