Associations need to associate. That was the underlying message from today’s Associate’s Day event at the IATEFL conference in Liverpool . As the representative of TESOL France, I attended the all-day session with two other TESOL France representatives: president Debbie West and vice-president Jane Ryder.
Throughout the day, attendees got tips and inspirational stories on how to look beyond the borders of their own teaching association (TA) to join forces with neighboring TAs. Kati Tama of IATEFL Hungary showed us how they use http://sites.google.com to create an intranet site for their TA to better curate information and announcements relevant to their members. She also presented a virtual conference model to really bring virtual conferences to life for attendees at the online satellite events. For example, this week, members of IATEFL Hungary will enjoy pre-conference events, streamed videos from Liverpool, and a post-conference party complete with a sing-along of Beatles songs. This type of online viewing event can really help create the energy of being there in person for motivated teachers who for some reason or another can’t attend events in person.
Representatives from TAs in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka shared stories of how they worked together to coordinate Peer Support Reviews, which was described as “looking critically at what our TA friends are doing to encourage best practice.” The TESOL France delegation (and many other attendees, I’m sure) were beyond impressed with how much these awesome TAs had achieved despite obvious challenges they must deal with in these countries. It really hit home when the Pakistani delegate told us “Once, we did only have four people come to our event because of bombings in the city.” The teachers in these countries, especially their TA members, deserve a huge amount of respect. Suddenly problems common to classrooms typical of classrooms in the developed world—late students, technology failure, noise next door—seemed extremely trite.
One important session of the day was devoted to brainstorming on ways to improve IATEFL’s Wider Membership Scheme (WMS) and Wider Membership Individual Scheme (WMIS). These programs give teachers in under-funded countries the opportunity to join IATEFL and attend the conference at subsidised rates. Challenges obviously exist in such programs, as there always seems to be more demand than money, but that’s why the Associates dedicated part of the day to collecting ideas on how to make the program as efficient as possible.
Attendees in Liverpool can do their part to reach out to their fellow teachers in countries where funds are all too rare by purchasing a WMIS badge at the registration counter with a £2 donation (of course larger donations are also accepted!)