A lot of articles and blog posts have been written about the benefits of attending a conference. Studies and surveys that have been conducted by organizations like the British Council focus on the impact of conferences on attendees. Positive contribution to professional development, enrichment of knowledge in new ELT techniques, networking and exchanging ideas with other ELT professionals and a feeling of confidence and achievement are among the most significant benefits that ELT professionals gain by attending conferences around the world.
Now the question is: What are the criteria for which conference we choose to attend? Is it the destination? Are the reviews of the fellow colleagues who have been there before? Is it a recommendation from a good friend? A good promotion on social media? A combination maybe? Whatever the reason one thing is for sure. The experience is unique. And sooner or later we must jump in the chance of living it.
For me, attending the 25th Annual IATEFL Hungary Conference was an unforgettable experience. My personal reason for choosing to participate in this major event was above all the fact that the Association was celebrating its silver anniversary this year. And as it usually happens with celebrations the atmosphere of festivity is in the air. On the one hand it is an opportunity of a retrospect. The title and theme “Looking forward, looking back” suggests this idea of reflection before proceeding. But, on the other hand, it is a fantastic chance for something special to be organized. So, I knew from the very beginning that this conference would host exceptional plenary speakers, would hide surprises and be fun-filled of course.
I was very lucky to see prominent ELT personalities on stage as Alan Maley, Marjorie Rosenberg, Russel Stannard and Ádám Nádasdy who generously shared their considerable experiences on various ELT fields and filled us with motivation and knowledge of how learning from reflection can help us understand our development as teachers and professionals.
As I have already mentioned above there is no celebration without festivity atmosphere and surprises. The committee members not only proved that they can organize a fabulous event but also they got the chance to explore their talents in singing and acting and they prepared a surprise performance for us! The play was actually a series of hilarious sketches around the theme of different teaching methods and teacher personalities which were written and acted out by the members. And for the finale all the attendees we were asked to sing along the song which was composed especially for the event. Its title: “Looking forward, looking back”! The party went on with lots of singing and dancing (and drinking of course) at the Eötvös Loránd University’s club.
Another highlight prepared for this special anniversary was the Nostalgia room. Twenty five years of IATEFL Hungary were displayed in an exhibition tenderly organized and put up by Zsuzsa Lindner, ex-President of IATEFL Hungary. Photographs and programmes created an imaginary trip to the past. The best part was the props corner, where the attendees had the chance to try on and take a souvenir picture wearing one of the funny glittering gigantic glasses or a carnival hat. I did not miss the chance of course.
For me the 25th Annual IATEFL Hungary Conference will remain unforgettable for another very important reason. I was given the opportunity to participate in this major event as a speaker which was a huge honour and a great pleasure at the same time.
I offered two talks. The first was related to the educational value of performing arts in ESL class through the prism of Street theatre. Getting inspired by the theme of the conference “Looking forward, looking back”, I looked back at the roots of the first street theatre groups and I briefly examined the sociopolitical and philosophical reasons of their formation. Furthermore, I explained how street theatre’s theory is connected to pedagogy and why performing arts are considered to be a powerful vehicle as far as the educational perspective and the learning process are concerned. Finally, I gave examples of using performing arts in class by presenting a project I did with my students few years ago.
The second talk was about a game we designed with my dear colleague Marianthi Tsepeli and played with young learners during the summer campaign which was organized by the Central Public Library of our hometown, Serres, in 2014. The idea of the game was originally presented at the TESOL Macedonia Thrace Annual International Convention in 2015. Slightly changed this time Marianthi and I put some light on the theory behind the designing of the game and the reasons why we decided to create a storyline. Entitled “Superheroes on a mission: Let’s join forces to save the wor(l)d!”, the game invites learners to work in teams and co-operate in order to solve riddles, do quizzes, search for clues and create digital comics.
All in all the 25th Annual IATEFL Hungary Conference was a unique experience. The welcoming, friendly as well as celebrating atmosphere would always be memorable. I hope to have the chance to go back there again someday.