This summer, I had the honor and pleasure of being invited to speak at two annual conferences of TESOL affiliates: MATESOL in Miragoane, Haiti and TESOL Chile in Iquique. I also attended the TESOL Symposium hosted by CAMELTA, TESOL Affiliate in Cameroon. Three different contexts, one common theme: advancing excellence in English language teaching worldwide.
I was so impressed with the enthusiasm and leadership displayed by our affiliate leaders. I felt welcome and included in their rich conversations, which often dealt with high level issues around English language teaching and the future of their countries.
In Cameroon, teachers participated in spirited discussions on how to develop affordable resources that are relevant to their students, promote creativity, and advance English language learning. In Haiti, teachers discussed the importance of English as a pathway to prosperity. In Iquique, they discussed their role in the educational policies of their country in view of the upcoming presidential election.
Whether you teach English in a class of 120 students in Yaounde, in a public school in Port au Prince where families are still recovering from the 2010 earthquake, a university in Southern Chile, or an urban school in the United States, you are confronted with the same kinds of challenges and questions:
- How can English language teachers be successful despite limited resources?
- What is the best way to prepare and develop English language teachers?
- How can English language teachers improve their students’ academic achievement?
- What educational policies help or hinder English language teaching and learning?
- How do you teach English to young learners, and is it a good idea? Why or why not?
These questions were the driving topics at the conferences I had the privilege to attend.
On the flight back to the United States, I reflected on my experiences, discussions, and observations. Despite the different contexts, which cannot and should not be ignored, there is a common thread uniting all TESOL professionals: the role they play in a global economy and in the future of their countries. They do so with courage, honesty, and passion. TESOL and its 109 affiliates create a safe space where teachers, researchers, teacher educators, and students can envision the future of our profession. We may have internal disagreements and different perspectives, but this collective reflection is what makes us a true community and builds our leadership capacity.