I attended my first IATEFL conference in 2008. I was in awe and overwhelmed at the same time. I tried to attend as many sessions as I possibly could, which kind of back-fired and meant I went back to my hotel on the third day at lunch time exhausted with a headache! Since then I’ve learned how to make the most of these big annual conferences, for example by setting clear aims for myself before I go, and using down time to reflect on what I’ve heard through posts on my blog. I now find that I come away from the annual conference energised and inspired, and full of new input and ideas to apply in my own teaching. The conferences have brought me into contact with lots of collagues working all around the world, and broadened my perspective on good EFL teaching practice. My enthusiasm has helped me to convince colleagues to attend, and this year I even took along a group of MEd students to join in the fun, too!
I’ve made some good friends through IATEFL events and groups (e.g. on Facebook). Sometimes we only see each other ‘live’ for an intensive week at the annual conference, but keeping in touch throughout the year means the exchange of input and ideas is not restricted to this one week a year. I’ve also made contact with a number of colleagues in all different areas of ELT, including research, materials writing, etc. who I know I can always turn to with questions or collaboration on any projects I’m working on.
Within IATEFL, I feel integrated, welcomed, and appreciated in the ELT family; my belonging, as a valuable member of this professional community has been confirmed by the warm, inclusive & supportive atmosphere of the whole organisation and at the events. I like the fact that IATEFL reduces the perceived hierarchy between ‘big names’ and ‘normal teachers’ and values everyone’s contributions and membership. Teaching can often be a rather lonely job, but membership of IATEFL definitely counteracts this!
Continued Professional Development
I’d never really thought about CPD before joining IATEFL. But the events, publications, Special Interest Groups, facebook groups, discussion lists, etc, are all generally inexpensive and accessible forms of CPD which have given me a boost along the way. I only started my own blog because of the excitement around blogging among IATEFL members, and I never would have thought about writing for ETP or MET, or even ELTJ, had I not been encouraged to do so by discussions among members. It’s great working to be the best teacher I can be, surrounded by a whole community of like-minded colleagues!
Clare is a lecturer in EFL and EAP at Trier University (Germany). She holds post-graduate qualifications from the University of Wales and Trinity College London. Before moving into tertiary education, she taught English at German grammar schools, and English for Specific Purposes at several language academies in the UK and Germany. Her professional interests include EAP materials development and CPD for teachers. She blogs at www.ClaresELTCompendium.wordpress.com and on the team-authored blog www.eltresearchbites.com .