'What does IATEFL really stand for?' by Anastasia Khodakova

23rd June 2019

Part 1: The road to the conference

I’ve had a passion for English since I saw my first word of it – surprisingly enough, it was ‘pillow’ on the poster of some children’s magazine. I swallowed every English book I came across during the pre-Internet ’90s. Luckily, I had the best English teacher imaginable who tried to satisfy my hunger for learning languages despite the lack of modern textbooks and language practice. I entered the department of my dream – the foreign languages department in Tula, Russia – and dived into ‘the brave new world’ of the English language and culture. But I didn’t plan to become a teacher – journalism was my second passion.

In 2004 I won a scholarship to study journalism in the USA, at Eastern Michigan University. The year passed quickly and I flew home to get my degree in Education and then realized that my real passion is teaching.

My teaching career brought me to the USA a few times, all over the European continent – from Spain to Poland – and all over Russia – from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. I coordinated two national EFL volunteer projects about fostering tolerance and cultural awareness through English classes. I presented and shared my experience at various conferences, seminars and training sessions in many parts of Russia. Thanks to the IATEFL scholarship, I was able to share the results of this extensive work at IATEFL Brighton 2018.

Part 2: Pre-conference event “Global Issues Special Interest Group”

I have participated in many conferences other than IATEFL, including TESOL in the USA but I’d never even considered pre-conference events (PCE). This time thanks to the GI SIG scholarship I attended GI SIG PCE and found it very worthwhile.

First of all, you have intensive sessions on the topic of your interest, which makes the learning focused and builds on the techniques you learn or ideas you develop. Second, it gives you a chance to interact with like-minded professionals for a more extensive period and network more as you are with the same people for the whole day. Third, you’re able to gear up before the main conference starts as if you were driving at a special track before attempting to turn onto the main highway.

What sessions did I find especially useful? Nearly all of them! Exploiting visuals or google arts or films to teach global issues is something that anyone can take and use in their classroom. One of my favourites was Margarita Kosior’s idea about using the short film “The Conditioned” (2014) to teach tolerance towards homeless people.


Part 3: The IATEFL 2018 conference

To predict the future you have to create it.

For the whole week I indulged in the linguistic paradise which is called IATEFL. And I actually mean it. The IATEFL experience is special. It is when you wake up at dawn and rush to the How to’s in the morning to listen to the gurus. It is when you are moved to tears and stand up to applaud at the plenary like in the theatre, because a plenary is not just a talk, it is a professional performance intertwined with linguistic intricacies  and teaching wisdom.

It is when you jump like a chimpanzee at the workshop trying out energizers or draw past perfect continuous (who would have thought it is even possible!) or write English sentences with Cuisenaire rods or line up at one stall after an inspiring session on teaching teenagers to buy the author’s book.

It is when you discuss learning objectives with famous authors having a glass of wine in the evening or share your stories with other teachers in the hall during the break.

It is when you realise that English teachers are superheroes without capes because they shape minds, work to collaborate, to personalize, to localize and globalize at the same time. They work for peace and understanding. They work for reducing prejudice and empowering their students.


This is what IATEFL really is:

I – Interactive

A – Active

T – Tremendous

E – Empowering

F – Flourishing

L – Learning experiences

And yes, it is also when you have to buy an extra suitcase and repack a couple of times at the airport because you couldn’t resist the temptation to buy some extra books or games.

Anastasia Khodakova, PhD, is an associate professor in Tula State Lev Tolstoy Pedagogical University (Russia) and the head of the language center Hi Time. She initiated and coordinated local and national EFL projects on creating tolerance-related materials in 2011-2015.

IATEFL 2019 Scholarships

If you’re inspired by Anastasia’s story, why not apply for a scholarship for IATEFL Liverpool 2019 yourself? Applications for our 2019 scholarships will open on Friday 1st June 2018. The closing date for applications is 16.00 (UK Time) Thursday 12th July 2018. Any applications received after this time will not be accepted.