I had the privilege of attending the two affiliate conferences this month: NYSTESOL, with a theme on social pedagogy and advocacy, and the 44th MEXTESOL convention, with a theme on strengthening learning communities. TESOL affiliate conferences offer a wonderful opportunity to connect with other English language professionals.
NYSTESOL had a successful convention in Melville, Long Island, New York. Several presenters discussed the importance of empathy and teaching collaborative skills. This is such a timely topic, and learning to take another person’s perspective and understanding cultural differences is so integral to our work. Interesting fact: Research is increasingly talking about the positive relationship between empathy and bilingualism! In my plenary I also noted other benefits of providing our students with the opportunity to learn more than one language, including cognitive benefits (for young children and for older individuals) and economic benefits. Moreover, for minoritized language learners, access to their home language and the dominant language of school improves school achievement and allows for healthier psychological development and stronger identity. (Download an excellent infographic on the benefits of bilingualism.)
The 44th MEXTESOL convention was my next stop. The convention was held in the shoe and leather capital—León, Mexico. The program ran from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm and provided a variety of ways for the nearly 2,400 attendees to participate, including workshops, paper presentations, plenaries, and e-conference presentations. MEXTESOL’s conference theme focused on strengthening learning communities. Talking with attendees, many of whom had been driving for many hours to get to the conference, I realized yet again how important it is that we have these opportunities to connect and share our success stories as well as our challenges. When we talk with colleagues from around the world, we realize we are not alone; others can support and help us and share ideas and possible solutions.
This connectivity is what makes TESOL a special place. It initially drew me to the TESOL International Convention and has kept me coming back year after year. I look forward to TESOL 2018 in Chicago and hope to see you there, too!
Ester de Jong
TESOL President, 2017–2018