Where to start?
I attended IATEFL for the first time this year, and although I was only able to attend two out of the five days, I feel like I’m still digesting the experience a week later! I am obviously very new to the world of ELT, and followed the conference avidly online last year. It’s only now that I have witnessed it for myself that I understand why most people in the ELT world love it so much, why people save up for it all year, and why Twitter explodes for the week of the conference.
There are, luckily for me, plenty of incredible people who somehow managed to tweet and blog their way through the whole conference, most notably for me Sandy Millin and Lizzie Pinard, both of whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the MaWSIG PCE (blogged to perfection by Lizzie, whose posts are summarised and linked to by Sandy!). This means that I don’t feel obliged to try and make sense of my scribbled notes in a sufficiently coherent fashion to share with the world. At least, not right now – I need to manage a few more posts in order to earn the badge of IATEFL 2016 Official Blogger which I am proudly displaying up in the corner of my blog.
Rather, in true ELT blogosphere form, I thought I would politely borrow an idea from Clare Fielder (with her permission!), who asks ‘How would you describe IATEFL in three words?’
I was a novice attendee, but I couldn’t believe the size and scale of the conference – I even knew what the ICC looked like before I arrived in Birmingham, but I had no idea of how rabbit warren-y it was, nor just how many parallel sessions there would be each day. For that reason, I’m really glad I started with the MaWSIG Pre-Conference Event on the Tuesday, as that was held within the same room all day, and eased me into the bombardment of ELTness with the help of some familiar faces and familiar topics.
I sometimes get teased at work (a large ELT publisher) for being an ‘ELT keeno’, exemplified in the fact that I paid to attend the conference out of my own money. However, nothing prepared me for being met with thousands of other such keen beans, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to soak up as much knowledge and professional development within the realm of English Language Teaching as possible. The atmosphere around the sign-in days on the first two days was electric, with old friends greeting each other, and new friendships already blossoming in the queue for registration and a bag.
There was even a video posted to the IATEFL Facebook group at the close of the conference which sums this point up excellently: I understand some of the IATEFL Board members cried when they saw how much the conference means to some delegates! (If you search ‘Caroline Moore’ in that group I’m sure you will find it.)
My job is going through a few changes at the moment, so my office is a funny place to be. Spending two days surrounded by so many other people who are so interested in and passionate about all different facets of English Language Teaching was just the boost I needed! (And kept me out of the office at a rather good time, as it turned out…)
I’m going to be naughty and add a fourth word, which I was inspired to do by my dad. As I recounted my trip to him, all proud that I hadn’t died whilst driving through central Birmingham, he was flicking through the huge conference programme and seemed distracted. He looked up at me and said ‘this is unreal; you would never get this in any other profession!’ He works in packaging for a pharmaceutical company, whose
reach is global like IATEFL’s, but it just made me laugh that he was so impressed by all the bits and bobs within the wonderful conference programme. He’s heard me making similar jokes about the publishing industry, so he said ‘only in your job would there be pull-out inserts for each day of the conference for your ease!’ And that pretty much sums up my experience of the conference: it was insanely well organised, from the PCEs and the material we received in advance, to registration, to the conference sessions themselves. There were so many people there to help and even if you did get lost, the likelihood was that you’d be lost with someone incredibly interesting and it would almost be worth giving up trying to find Executive Room 7 altogether and just chatting to them!
All in all, my short stay in Birmingham was a pleasure – to such an extent that I followed the advice of someone in the IATEFL Facebook group and have already booked a free cancellation hotel room for next year!