In Denver, I am serving as a TESOL Ambassador, and the honor allows me to check a goal off my list before the TESOL Annual Convention even begins. Every time I attend TESOL, I try to do something new. The first time I attended, I was solely in reception mode (a collateral result was the invaluable motivation to submit proposals and participate more actively).
Since then, this secondary effort—to pursue different opportunities—has driven me to persistently explore and exploit the resources of the conference and to even move beyond my comfort zone. While it is both easy and sufficiently gratifying to attend as many sessions as possible and to focus on topic- and skill-specific professional development, there is much more on offer when so many TESOL professionals gather.
In Toronto (my first year as a presenter), I attended one of the many discussion group sessions. As a promotion of peer exchange, it brought together about a dozen attendees interested in sharing their experiences and ideas on reading. Novice teachers and veterans alike chimed in with their thoughts; it was one very productive respite from the more intense, organized sessions that often cover a lot of ground in 45 minutes.
I attended a Tea With Distinguished TESOLers event in Chicago. I was prompted to do so largely because one of the participants authored a text I have used—and have actually quite literally depended on—in my classroom for years. I could not imagine how the “tea” would proceed, and it took place at the end of the conference, when my energy was beginning to flag. It was beyond worth the time and energy that I mustered. The setting was as intimate as the title suggested, even though there were several tables in close proximity, each set for eight or 10 people. The food was lovely and abundant, and the conversation was inspiring and informative.
The exhibition hall tends to present me with conflicting reactions. I am NOT a shopper, and a loud, overwhelming environment like that can be off-putting. Since I generally have a textbook-related mission, last year I decided to enter a couple of the giveaways AND to be present to win. That is where I often fall down, especially the “win” part. In Atlanta, however, after two names were called and dismissed (absent, it seemed), my name was called and I left the exhibition hall with a free Fitbit. Incidentally, I also landed on a new grammar text, so my school, colleagues, and students gleaned a benefit as well.
Convention fatigue can result from exuberantly pursuing session after session. I have sometimes found myself intellectually numb and in need of intense processing time following a long, tightly scheduled day at TESOL. This reset can be achieved, and the overwhelming nature of the event can be mitigated by injecting an adventurous spirit into the experience.
Currently an instructor with Spring International Language Center at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville), Wendy McBride brings experience as a language learner (French, Japanese, and Russian) as well as a teacher (at university and IEP levels, in workplace settings, in community education and at an eikaiwa gakkō/英会話学校 in Japan) to her TESOL ambassadorship. She has trained students from around the world in one-on-one, small group, and large group classroom situations.