After a few days in Riga, Latvia, for the Eaquals International Conference, here I am, back home, with loads of ideas and emotions still crowding my mind. So while I’m still in a ‘conference mood’, the best thing to do would be to share some thoughts as a first-time conference goer and presenter on this blog.

The people

I have to say I felt like a fish out of water at first. Eaquals conferences are aimed mostly at DoSes, managers and school owners who want to improve the quality of their schools, and/or who are thinking about becoming Eaquals members.

So imagine a tiny, insecure NNS teacher at her very first conference, surrounded by IH school managers, company owners and university directors… Intimidating doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Much to my surprise, when I started to talk to the attendees they turned out to be friendly, down-to-earth people, from whom I learned a lot during the sessions and the informal chats of coffee breaks. I had the pleasure to exchange ideas with school owners from France, DoSes from Ireland and Turkey, and to see things from a different perspective for once.

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The sessions

Even though most of the workshops were aimed at people who manage teachers, rather than at teachers themselves (I might have been the only actual teacher in the whole conference), I could still get a lot out of them. I would like to mention particularly four sessions which got me thinking:

Kirsten Holt‘s ‘We are. We can. We teach‘ was definitely my favourite. It should probably go on TEFL Equity Advocates as it moved the NNEST debate to another level. Kristen’s point was basically: let’s stop talking about the differences and discriminations, and create a new framework to evaluate teachers’ competences — so that the NEST-NNEST distinction becomes obsolete. I really loved the idea, and hope it will grow momentum in ELT as I see it as a great solution to the discrimination debate.

Linked to this, I attended Chris Farrell‘s presentation on using the Eaquals Framework for Teacher Training and Development to help teacher’s CDP. More of a technical presentation, but still very interesting as we do use this framework at school, and it all made so much more sense after Chris’ presentation.

Duncan Foord’s session on giving your teaching a coaching twist made me want to give these techniques another try. I had tried them in the past, when I read his book, but discussing and understanding the principles behind them made me reflect on how I can use this approach more consistently to help my learners.

And last, but definitely not least, I loved Silvana Richardson‘s workshop on making learning visible. This was probably the most relevant session for me as a teacher, as it gave me food for thought on how to help students set goals and see their progress, through success criteria and carefully planned feedback sessions. I came out of the workshop full of ideas that I can’t wait to share with my colleagues tomorrow. 🙂

Presenting for the first time

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As for presenting, I could summarise it in just a sentence: really scary at first, incredibly satisfying during and after the session. I have to say it was something that I had been asked to do, so it did not feel as if the topic really belonged to me. And since the last few months have been completely crazy at work, I felt I hadn’t had the time or focus to prepare the session as well as I would have wanted to. What’s more, the colleague who was presenting with me felt exactly the same, and we did not have time to get together and try the whole thing out until we got to Riga.

Luckily our audience was really nice and encouraging, the presentation sparked some debate and I came home feeling stronger and ready for the next one.

I hope to see you all in Prague next year! 🙂