With the breadth, depth, and wealth of knowledge that goes into each TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo, attending one can be among the most rewarding experiences a teacher has all year. The insights and inquiries that arise from engaging with colleagues who share the goal of finding effective ways to reach students are the fuel that make us better educators, but absorbing this vast amount of knowledge requires a plan. To ensure a full exploration of the expertise on offer, attendees may wish to remember three steps: Preview, Peruse, and Plug in to Community.
The TESOL mobile app, available in February, can help you personalize your convention experience and maximize your time. Download the app on a device you’ll be bringing with you to Chicago, but don’t wait until Chicago to explore it. Search for and save specific sessions to a personalized itinerary so that you will arrive already knowing what topics you want to delve into. Searching by session type is also a boon; browsing the titles of the Technology Showcases in the Electronic Village helps to pinpoint what other topics you may want to explore in the panels, teaching tips, research presentations, and poster sessions. (By the way, do not miss the poster sessions! They are an extremely beneficial segment of the convention. You get real one-on-one time with practitioners who are keen to show you the applicability of their ideas.) The ability to search by name is also helpful for seeing if former colleagues or those at other institutions are presenting.
Although previewing is a crucial step that helps you learn about the specific sessions you’ll want to attend, you’ll also want to spend some time at the convention in certain areas without having every step planned out. The Electronic Village, for example, comes highly recommended. Choose one or two sessions that look interesting, then stay and rotate to other sessions based on the titles and type of tech idea being presented. The Village is designed perfectly for perusing because it has small groups, close proximity, highly visible titles, and shorter presentation times. Poster sessions offer similar benefits. Last year, I learned as much from interacting with poster presenters that I encountered by chance as I did from the sessions I had meticulously planned out.
Plug in to Community
A third key to getting the most out of TESOL 2018 is pushing yourself to plug in to the community that most interests you. TESOL Interest Sections hold meetings after the day’s sessions have finished. These are great places to meet experts as well as aspiring aficionados. Connecting with other attendees who have sought out the same sessions as you can also be great for exploring the topic further. As language educators, we are some of the most open people in academia. Take this to heart and connect with colleagues over shared ideas and visions for what English teaching will be in the near future.
Kurtis Foster is an EAP specialist and international educator at Missouri State University. Through teaching and curriculum development at MSU, with the Sister Cities Association, Isesaki, Japan, and previously at Kyungnam University, Republic of Korea, he has sought out and continues to explore intersections of student experience where community meets the classroom and interest becomes engagement.