ELT Best Practices: Highlights from TESOL 2017

Sherry Blok
Sherry Blok

The highlight of my time at the 2017 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo was my experience coordinating the Professional Development Travel Grant for Practicing ESL/EFL Teachers. This award is sponsored by well known author Betty Azar, who wrote the popular English grammar series, otherwise known as “Red, Blue, and Black.” With this grant of US$1500, twenty lucky recipients from all over the globe were able to attend the annual convention. Meeting these teachers and hearing their stories reminds me of the importance of belonging to a community of practice, and there is no better place for the world to come together than at a TESOL event.

In this blog, I’d like to share the impression of  the TESOL convention from one of the award recipients, Daniela Munca-Aftenev from the Republic of Moldova. Daniela is the president of Academy for Innovation and Change through Education, a nongovernmental organization in Chisinau, Moldova. Continue reading

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Becoming a Leader in TESOL International Association

Andy Curtis
Andy Curtis

As members of the TESOL International Association will recall, in March 2014, after years of meetings, consultation, and gathering feedback, the 85-page report of the TESOL International Association’s Governance Review Task Force was made public. In the Executive Summary of the report, the task force noted their finding that “there is no coherent or readily obvious leadership pipeline [in the association]” (p. 4), and that “many leaders [in the association] felt unprepared for their jobs when they began their positions” (p. 5).

This important finding would make leadership development within the association a recurring theme and one of its priorities in the years ahead. However, the notion of a “pipeline” was problematic. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a pipeline is “a very long large tube, often underground, through which liquid or gas can flow for long distances.” Pipelines should be for petroleum, not for people. Having chosen not to talk in terms of “pipelines,” the TESOL Board of Directors chose instead to talk using other, more humane metaphors, such as “leadership ladders” and “leadership pathways.”

Growing out of the work of the Governance Review Task Force, two task forces were struck in 2015: the Interest Section Task Force (ISTF), and the Affiliate Task Force, two organizational entities that have been part of the association since it began. After 50 years, it was time to step back and reflect on how the first half-century of these entities had fared, with a view to planning for the second half-century. The Interest Section Task Force report, (99 pp.) which was made public in March 2016, contained a number of references to the importance of training and supporting TESOL members in leadership roles. For example, the report stated that “research by the ISTF as well as the ISTF’s personal experience show that the level of success of an [interest section] is highly dependent on who is leading the group at the moment” (p. 15). In April 2016, the Affiliate Task Force report (117 pp.) was made public, and again, leadership training was identified as playing “a vital role in developing new leaders for the association” (p. 2).

As a result of the importance afforded leadership in the task force reports, a Leadership Development Working Group was set up in May 2016. The group was made up of myself and two other members of the TESOL Board of Directors: Silvia Laborde (2016–2019) in Uruguay, and Kyungsook Yeum (2015–2018) in South Korea. The three of us being spread across 13 time zones is a common challenge facing members of a board of directors like ours, but in spite of the vast distances separating us, we were able to have regular meetings online throughout the year.

One of our first tasks was to conduct an inventory of leadership development resources already available in the association. We found that TESOL provides many more resources that other associations, including the ELT Leadership Management Certificate Program, the Leadership Development Certificate Program, and the Leadership Mentoring Program, which has been running for more than 20 years. One problem is that the information about these, and other, leadership development opportunities are scattered across the TESOL website, which has grown along with the association. To address that problem, the Leadership Development Working Group has gathered association leadership resources from across the website onto a single web page, and we invited five current and past board members to create a set of leadership chronologies showing the very different routes they followed to arrive at their leadership positions within the association. We believe that these new resources could help members, especially new members, understand how to navigate the different pathways to association leadership.

As we explain in the notes that accompany the chronologies, we are not suggesting that all leadership paths should lead to serving on TESOL’s Board of Directors. TESOL International Association offers many other leadership opportunities, for example, within interest sections, affiliates, task forces, and professional councils. The association needs leaders at all levels, and the current leadership is committed to doing everything we can to support each other and to mentor and encourage future leaders. We hope that you will find these new resources useful and helpful, and we look forward to hearing from you, with your ideas for what we can do to help you become effective leaders in our association.

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ESP Project Leader Profile: Stephen Horowitz

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

At the 2017 Annual TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo in Seattle in March, I met Stephen Horowitz in person. In the 31st ESP Project Leader Profile, we will all learn more about this former Wall Street lawyer and ESP program director. Here’s his bio:

Stephen Horowitz is the Director of Legal English Programs at St. John’s University School of Law, where he began working in 2014. He is a graduate of Duke Law School and former associate at the Wall St. law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, with an M.A. in TESOL from CUNY-Hunter College. He also previously taught English in Japan on the JET Program and subsequently spent time studying law and interning for Japanese lawyers. Now overseas, Stephen designs curriculum for, and teaches in, the American Law: Discourse & Analysis (ALDA) program as well as the summer intensive English for American Law School (EALS) program and the Bar Exam Language & Strategies (BELS) course. He is also the creator of the Bankruptcy Bill cartoon and has played in ultimate Frisbee tournaments in 8 different countries. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife and 3 children.

In his interview responses below, he describes a program for helping students pass the bar exam. Continue reading

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6 Online Dictionaries for English Learners

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko

Dictionaries are an extremely useful source of information about a language, and they can certainly be very helpful to our students as well. Luckily, nowadays, various dictionaries are freely available on the internet, and I believe many of you are familiar with the most standard and commonly used ones, such as Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, and Oxford. Also, TESOL blogger Tara Arntsen described these frequently used online dictionaries in one of her blog posts.

In addition to these general dictionaries, I’d like to draw readers’ attention to a few online dictionaries that focus on specific information about lexical items, such as phrasal verbs dictionary, idioms and idiomatic expressions dictionary, collocations dictionary, synonyms dictionary, etymology dictionary, and visual dictionary. This information can be particularly useful to English language learners. Continue reading

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Thank You, TESOL Volunteers

Ester De Jong
Ester De Jong

This is National Volunteer Week! What better way to begin my TESOL President’s Blog series. It provides us with a wonderful opportunity to recognize the importance of volunteers for our association. Without their willingness to devote many hours of their already-scarce time, we certainly would be unable to do what we do. Continue reading

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