As an ESOL teacher in Maryland, I was pleased to attend the annual Maryland TESOL conference a couple days ago.
As always, it was a nice experience.
I’d say that the theme of my conference experience was a dearth of presentations that were applicable to higher education.
And the uncomfortable corollary: if I want something to be there, I need to consider providing it myself, even though I’m just me.
The keynote was about students with limited/interrupted formal education. It was well-considered and well-presented, and I thought she made several good points about literacy- and school-related cultural differences between many of our students’ home countries and the USA. But overall, her topic was not new to me and I don’t know that she added a whole lot to my schema. I also don’t know how relevant it was to higher education students and classes. I mean, we have SLIFE students, but I didn’t leave the presentation with ideas for how to work with them more effectively within the confines of the syllabus-led courses we teach. I was hoping for more than this from a keynote.
There were three breakout sessions, and I only attended one specifically relevant to higher education. This session dealt with a very specific study of a very specific group of international students, and though it was interesting, I didn’t feel like I walked out of that session with any insights that were actionable.
The other two sessions I attended were both interesting as well. The first session was about public schools. It was a stellar presentation – easily the best of the day. But since the public schools are peripheral to my professional life, the likelihood of my ever using information from this presentation is low. The second session was about corpus linguistics. The speaker’s energy for her topic was contagious and would have sparked anybody’s interest. However, I was already interested, and I was disappointed with how much time she spent on the mechanics of using the search functions on the corpus websites. She did give a couple of activity ideas which I might be able to adapt to my future classes, but I wished for many more ideas and much less of the assumption that my students had the time and/or inclination to play with the corpus tools in or out of class.
Though I had a great time and feel that it was a pleasant use of my personal money for my professional development, I was a little disappointed to walk out of the conference with nothing that was clearly actionable in my current work setting.
Feeling Disappointed? Get Busy!
Again, none of this is intended to be a complaint. I think it’s more just a long-winded justification for wondering if it’s time for me to step up and present. Not because I think I know more than the people around me (I’m pretty sure I don’t!), but because this is the kind of gap we ourselves need to step up and fill. And I think it was a gap. I can’t be the only person who was looking for more higher-education-related sessions – I’m just not that special!
So I’m trying to think through what I wish had been there. What would I have loved to have attended?
- grammar anything (I’m a grammar geek), maybe particularly re: academic writing
- advanced grammar review for teachers – clause types, non/restrictive commas, etc.
- the color vowel chart (I’m a pronunciation geek, too)
- tips on teaching/tutoring essay writing
- academic activities based on corpus linguistics… that could fit into a syllabus class
- cultural presentations (i.e. Cultures of West Africa 101)
- how to run a small-scale study
- how to run a large-scale study
- grading essays efficiently
- working with your college’s librarians
- working with your college’s tutoring center
Many of these are enticing to me because they represent gaps in my knowledge and experience. I could not present on many of these topics, at least right now.
But several on my list are my interests/hobbies. I’d like to attend sessions on them in hopes of going deeper. Perhaps those would be subjects to consider presenting on next time, in case anyone else is interested too. And if nobody else is interested, that’s OK! I’ll go attend someone else’s and learn something new!
How do you figure out what to present on? And when you’re “good enough” to present?