I looked forward to the TESOL Convention in Dallas this year, even though I had to arrive late and in fact couldn’t get there until Saturday morning. By chance I walked right into the plenary, rather than the main entrance, where I could register. I finally found the Electronic Village, where my friends of many years were doing their usual things, preparing for webcasts, finding cables, trying to make things work. I love the Electronic Village; though I am incompetent at such things, they’ve always accepted me as part of the CALL-IS and as a regular presenter. I gave my presentation, which was about the influence of grammar technology (translators, grammar checkers, etc.) on student writing and learning, I felt lucky to be part of TESOL and part of this group.
In fact the whole convention seemed lucky to me in the sense that I seemed to run into the people I needed to, even in such a short time. I went to presentations on writing, one about teaching writing using Jing movie software, and had coffee with materials writers who talked about the changing world of publishing. As usual we talked about conventions of past years. This is a group of friends that I see only once a year if I’m lucky, always in various cities, always with an interesting backdrop. Baltimore one year was raining cats and dogs. In Tampa I lost my wallet, but a hotel worker sent it back to me later. In New York one year it was snowing and very crowded in the hotels. My friends are consistent though. They know me and care about my family and my general well=-being. These friendships cut through the years and is the most important thing abut the convention to me.
I think of TESOL as a large group of teachers, worldwide, who gather annually, share one city for part of one week, tell stories, meet old friends, do TESOL business. Some get wrapped up in IS politics; some measure what they can take home from the sessions in very practical terms. Some take taxis and some drive to town or walk everywhere. You can spot TESOL people in the hotels and the airport, not only by their bags, but also by their character, and also because I’ve seen some of them over the years. Every once in a while you see someone famous, like Stephen Krashen, or Betty Azar. I know the organization is not perfect and has had its ups and downs. But as I look back over the years I’m still proud to be part of it, and my luck is holding up. It’s been good to me.
I’m a Texan now; I moved to Lubbock in August and have been learning about the place as fast as I can. Texas is a place with its own music, a sense of national pride (even though it’s just a state), and wild weather. People are very friendly. I’ve been welcoming my friends here now, as a Texan. I was walking through Dallas with one friend, because we wanted to see the infamous grassy knoll; we encountered a nice old policeman with a West Texas drawl, and a kind of guide at the knoll who explained that piece of Texas history, showed us what happened and where. Dallas seemed peaceful, even though that spot itself was somewhat busy with traffic. If the ghosts of the past are still with us, then Kennedy’s would be right at that spot, I imagine. In the same way, I feel the ghosts of old TESOLs. But they have to move around, from city to city.