The theme of Toronto 2015 was “Crossing Borders, Building Bridges”; I literally crossed a border coming to Toronto 2015 when I drove over the Blue Water Bridge connecting Michigan to Canada. I have spent the convention figuratively building bridges by reconnecting with teaching colleagues, attending sessions led by new people in the field, and striking up conversations in receptions, coffee lines, and hotel lobbies.
It’s hard to write about a convention because everybody’s conference experience is so different. Plenary sessions, though, serve as a common denominator for all attendees. The session on Saturday morning with Jim Cummins made the biggest impression on me. His message about valuing language diversity and student identity was powerful, encouraging us to spread the informed word back home and to fearlessly advocate for our students’ needs. This fit perfectly with my Toronto 2015 mission to learn more about public policy and how I can use this knowledge to help my students. I was surprised to see that even someone as well known in our field as Dr. Cummins still seemed a bit nervous during his address. That made me feel less foolish for experiencing some stage fright before my own far-less-important presentation on Friday.
The last day of a TESOL convention is bittersweet. I pack my luggage, say good-bye to old teaching friends, and visit the exhibitor’s exposition one last time. I have far fewer handouts to pack than in previous years, thanks to the convention’s go green efforts to reduce paper waste. This was a much smaller convention, too, than many of the TESOL conventions I’ve attended before. I once had a co-teaching partner who always said, “Less is more,” reminding me that when we taught fewer topics in depth, our students learned more. “Less is more,” or to be more grammatically correct, “fewer is more,” might also apply to my Toronto 2015.
There were fewer convention attendees, but I was able to find a seat in more sessions. I attended fewer sessions than I have at previous conventions, but I had more interaction with the speakers. I spent less time at the exhibitor’s exposition, but more time talking with old friends. I had fewer old friends in Toronto to visit after the convention as I usually do (actually none), so I was able to spend more time at the convention.
I’ll leave on Sunday, crossing the border again and beginning the process of building a bridge between what I learned at Toronto 2015 and my own teaching situation in Michigan. How about YOUR Toronto 2015?