Live From TESOL 2014: Transform the World Into a Better Place!

Elena Shvidko will continue  blogging live from Portland
during the 2014 convention. Look for her posts!

The TESOL 2014 Convention commenced yesterday with the opening meeting and the keynote speaker address.  Even though the sessions officially start today, many people came yesterday to register and attend the first keynote speaker talk.

When I came to the Oregon Convention Center—which seems to be a perfect venue for such a great event—I spent some time walking around and becoming familiar with the layout of the convention center.  It was great to see familiar faces: attendees of previous conventions, members of the interest section groups, and colleagues and friends from my MA program.  The atmosphere was very lively and I sensed the overall excitement.

One attendee—a graduate student from a university in the United States—shared with me: “I like to be in the middle of the ‘beehive’ when everyone seems to be excited, when people take pictures, meet friends, run into old friends and colleagues they met in the previous conferences.  I feel exhilarated!” Another one said, “When I see people with a TESOL bag outside of the convention center, I want to come up to them and talk to them and ask them where they are from, and so on.  It’s great to be a part of the large community!”

The opening meeting started with the greetings from the TESOL President Deena Boraie and the Convention Program Chair John Schmidt.  They asked the attendees from different parts of the world to get up to indicate their presence.  It was great to see how diverse the TESOL membership really is.  We were also told that this year, the TESOLers came from more than 75 different countries.

As part of the opening ceremony, we also had a chance to recognize the winner of the TESOL Teacher of the Year award, Ann Fontanella, and the winner of the Distinguished Researcher Award, Stephen Bax.

The first keynote speaker was Surin Pitsuwan, whose talk was entitled “English as A Powerful Instrument of Community Building in East Asia.”  I thoroughly enjoyed Pitsuwan’s talk.  It made me realize that our job as English teachers should not only be limited to teaching the language, but we should also aim at teaching people how to think critically to solve problems.  Pitsuwan said that the English language is a transformative tool for global development and TESOL members should help transform the global landscape for a better future.  “Teachers must unleash power of the common language to encourage the students to gather more information, to communicate among themselves and to work together in the multiple settings,” Pitsuwan suggested. I am sure these words resonate with the beliefs of many attendees, including myself.

Surin Pitsuwan finished his talk with the following proclamation:

Your service is uniquely different from other services given all around the world.  You are teaching more than just the language.  You are creating the sense of coming together, you are creating the community.  We need the sense of the common belonging. This is your mission and your calling to go out to the rest of the world and try to raise the proficiency in the language that could be a tool to construct a better future for ourselves, our children and our posterity.

What a great beginning to the convention!

I am looking forward to all meetings, events, and activities that the TESOL organizing committee has prepared for us.  I encourage you to stay with us to learn more on the latest developments in the association and the field.

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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2 Responses to Live From TESOL 2014: Transform the World Into a Better Place!

  1. Elena Shvidko Elena Shvidko says:

    Kevin, it was fun to meet you too! And I hope to see you at TESOL-2015!

  2. Kevin Knight Kevin Knight says:

    Hi Elena,

    You are right! Surin Pitsuwan’s talk was inspirational! I spoke to him after that and asked him what advice I could give to my students about achieving his level of success. He laughed and thought for a moment before he responded that they should work hard and persevere.

    It was also wonderful to meet you at the Town Meeting today!


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