Thursday, 2 July 2015

IATEFL Besig Summer Symposium

Thoughts on an excellent symposium.
I’m putting my thoughts down while the joint IATEFL Hungary and IATEFL BESIG symposium in Budapest is still fresh in my head.

We actually got together as a group BEFORE the conference itself. Mary Sousa and Rachel Appleby did sterling work organising a meal at Hemingway’s, a Hungarian restaurant, situated in a park- with excellent food and company being the order of the evening. This helped break the ice and introduced us to new colleagues who will, I’m sure, become valued members of our PLNs in years to come.

Vegetables-at last:-)

The symposium started with a plenary session given by Jeremy Day. In some ways it stated the bleeding obvious: there are good teachers, bad teachers and those in between- and they belong to both the Native and Non-Native groups. He also discussed and dismissed popular stereotypical arguments which were in favour of native speakers, and looked at the fact that everyone is qualified to teach standard International English. He left us feeling that we could, and should, do something about combatting these misconceptions which disadvantage many excellent professionals.

In the first session I attended, I was interested in Rachel Appleby’s take on the value of the ‘S’ in ESP. She talked us through the needs of three of her students and induced us to talk about whether they were specifically ‘Business’ needs or not- and at what point a teacher might need some specialist knowledge. I particularly enjoyed her recurring theme of the Chain bridge, showing that 1-2-1 teaching has to be a two-way traffic.  This was a very logical and helpful session which would have put many minds at ease, particularly any teachers who are new to the teaching of ESP.

MY favourite session of the day was that of Rob Szabo, entitled: Spoken business English, systemic functional linguistics and power games. We looked at transcripts of genuine conversations and analysed them according to the three metafunctions of Field (ideational), Tenor (interpersonal) and Mode (textual) contexts. This brought up some of the reasons for communication imbalance in companies and was illuminating to most of the people present. The room was divided into two groups, each with one side of the conversation to consider.

I later enjoyed Andrew Wright’s somewhat rambling look at storytelling. He is the epitome of a storyteller, putting stories and anecdotes inside other stories. He went for the voice and a flip chart as his tools, proving that it isn’t always necessary to look for high-tech solutions. I could listen to him for hours, but he did well to keep to the timetable, and has also offered us his handouts as a PDF by email, thus cutting down on paper.

An extremely useful day of workshops, certainly for me, finished with Jasmina Sazdovska’s session on Process versus Product driven presentations. My goodness, she really knows her stuff, and her handouts will help me deliver some enlightened lessons for my own students. Her explanations were clear, as befits the head of a language department who is usually to be found working with young adults.

I enjoyed the speed networking session. This allowed me to meet new people- some of whom have already contacted me online since the weekend.  We lined up on two sides: Besig members and non-members, and did a type of speed -dating session. I made some great contacts and found out more about people I'd seen around during the weekend.

Marjorie, IATEFL President, ended the day with a summing up of the process and the collaboration between the two organisations. This was her first official gig since becoming President.

The Spa hotel where the conference was being held, laid on a BBQ in the evening, allowing us the opportunity to chill and chat together while winding down from the day. I was happy to see my husband, completely at ease, as he joined in a wide-ranging discussion on everything and anything. He also enjoyed his visit to Budapest.

This was well worth the time taken to participate in the day. I have come home full of ideas to test out, handouts to reread, and new contacts to befriend. What’s not to like?

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