Winning and postponing
“Good things happen sometimes”, people say. They happen when you try, but they also happen when you have to wait. Let me explain this. I was extremely delighted when I learnt I had won the 2018 Latin America Scholarship to attend the Brighton conference. I had submitted my proposal thinking that it was really hard to win because of the kind of scholarship it was – it is open to every English teacher working in Latin America – but I also thought it was a good try. At the same time, it made me reflect on my teaching practice and its impact on learners. So when I realised I had won, it was pure happiness. I made all my arrangements, IATEFL Head Office was helpful and everything was running smoothly. So good things happen. And sometimes two good things can happen at the same time. During the last months of 2017 and the first of 2018 I went through a recruitment process to get a job in the Mexican National Educational System.
Believe it or not, two weeks before going to Brighton I learnt I was offered the job. It meant a lot to me in terms of opportunities and growth. The bad news, my first day at work should be the same day that the conference in Brighton started. I talked to a couple of people in the Ministry of Education in Mexico but it was bureaucratically impossible to get a permission to skip my first day at work. But good things happen when you try, so I called IATEFL Head Office and explained everything.They were amazing;they told me I could come the year after. “It means we are going to have two Latin American winners for Liverpool,” Maureen – head of the scholarship committee – told me.
Why it was good to wait
Mixed feelings. I was happy for getting an amazing job, frustrated for not going to Brighton and at the same time excited to go to Liverpool. Getting and keeping the scholarship had been hard work so I knew that I had to make the most of it after having so much trouble. So I decided to send a speaker proposal for Liverpool – I hadn’t had to send one to win the scholarship.
I was planning to send my proposal when my SIG – Global Issues – posted a call for speakers for their PCE in Liverpool. It meant getting another shot to get to speak at the conference so I decided to send a proposal as well. I sent two proposals to speak in Liverpool, getting only one spot would have been great. Fortunately enough, I got picked to speak at both, the PCE and the main conference, which is highly unusual. It was then, when I understood why I had to wait and that waiting sometimes means more. If I had been to Brighton, I wouldn’t have had the chance to speak at the conference. I realised that, even if just attending was a fantastic opportunity, getting the chance to have a voice in what is happening in ELT today was even better.
Getting to the conference venue felt as if it was not my first conference as everybody was so friendly. The PCE was thought-provoking and warm at the same time, I felt that I belonged from the very beginning. The insights I got from the other speakers were incredibly helpful, everybody had something remarkable to say. The audience responded well to my talk and I got to chat to very interesting people about it. The mood was both serious and entertaining at the same time. It felt as if a group of friends were talking about serious issues, with a couple of jokes at some points. It definitely differed from the solemnity of other conferences I had attended.
After the PCE, I felt a lot more confident about my talk at the main conference. Again, the audience gave me good feedback and I met amazing people in the ELT community. Teachers and writers from very diverse countries approached me to discuss my talk,and I enjoyed talking about it during the breaks .
I also met colleagues with similar interests. We exchanged emails and have been in touch for future collaborations. I found IATEFL a great place to network and get to know like-minded people .
I definitely think that applying for scholarships is a good idea. It is astounding how this scheme helps passionate teachers from all over the world to attend a fantastic conference and live an unforgettable experience. If you win a scholarship, not only do you get up-to-date with the current trends in ELT, but you also become part of a vibrant community that inspires you to go back home and keep doing your best. I also believe that unsuccessful applicants should not give up . Good things do happen, sometimes and waiting for them means more.
Sergio Durand, 2018 IATEFL Latin America scholarship winner, holds an MA in Humanistic Studies and undergraduate degrees in English and French. He’s been a materials writer, teacher trainer, speaking examiner and exam trainer for more than 10 years. He teaches English at Escuela Normal Veracruzana and lectures English Literature at Universidad Veracruzana.