As the days to the annual TESOL Convention grow fewer, my hopes for interesting sessions and kind audiences grow stonger. One thing I find amusing about the whole conference experience is the change of roles we teachers experience. We move into the learner’s seat when we attend an academic session or workshop. Some of our behavior brings back memories of long-ago school experiences.
Where should I sit? You have those who eagerly walk to the front rows so they can get a good view of any visuals, hear the presentation well, and make direct eye contact with the presenter. You also have those who tentatively take a seat somewhere near the back. Perhaps the reason for that choice is the desire not to be called on to contribute to a discussion. More likely it’s the fear that the presentation will not meet one’s expectations, so a quick exit route is planned. Unlike high school, you can “cut class” at a conference.
Will texting or surfing get me in trouble? Most of us went through junior high without cell phones of any kind. We did have the option of covertly passing notes and doing off-task work, like doodling or reading a magazine. Today’s temptations during a lecture include discreet use of smartphones or other portable devices. When I’m in the role of presenter in New Orleans, I will do my best to assume that anyone on a computer or smartphone while I’m talking is engaged in an on-task activity, such as taking notes. To assume otherwise will shake my confidence!
What have you observed at teacher conferences? Have you ever witnessed behavior that was less than exemplary? I admit that I’ve left a few sessions early in past years – shortly after the starting time. It was usually because the title misled me into having certain expectations, and I came to understand that the focus of the talk wasn’t relevant to my work. In contrast, I also recall one session when the presenter was losing focus and the attendees were clearly less than enthusiastic, but I felt compelled to sit it out and offer direct eye contact and nods of encouragement to counterbalance the negative body language I was seeing from others in the audience.
I suppose one could attribute my choice of topic for this post to a small case of the jitters. I’d like to think there’s more to it than that. We have few opportunities for professional development compared to the hours we spend on instruction. I think both presenters and attendees should focus and commit 100% so that we collectively create a positive learning experience.
See you in New Orleans soon!