When I found out about the IATEFL Conference by simply following other teachers on Facebook, I thought it was an amazing event, filled with knowledge and camaraderie and above all, it was not for me, I was certainly not worthy enough to be there.
After years and years of just watching from afar, I decided to take a risk, I would be at the 2017 IATEFL Conference in Glasgow (even though I still felt as if I were too much of an ‘Ugly Duckling’ to be there).
I am a very down-to-earth kind of person, so I started by doing the math. How much would this trip cost me after all? As expected, it would cost an arm, a leg and maybe some other organs (LOL). On August 2016 I started paying for my flight tickets and in October I decided to share a hotel room with another teacher from Goiânia, this way I would be able to save up some money and would not feel lonely during the conference.
I also organized a savings account so I would have enough money for meals, transport, and emergencies. It took me approximately 7 months to pay for most of the trip and I knew I would still have some extra bills on the next few months.
What I realized during the conference was that we build up this idea in our minds when we are not part of the event, that there are the “ELT Gods”, some native and some Brazilian, and we should not approach them, because “God forbid! You don’t want to make a fool of yourself!” I have noticed that in the conference everyone is pretty much the same. While you see in Brazil foreign authors and lecturers being treated as the kings and queens, in Glasgow they were merely participants or presenters, important for the industry of course, but not as high up in the ladder as we usually picture them in Brazil. This brought to me a sense of equality and yet unfairness. I felt much more comfortable talking to them while in Glasgow than I would ever feel when participating in a conference in my own country.
I have also noticed how the “Brazilian ELT Elite” is more approachable and how even though institutions attend the event, some of them do not interact with each other at all. Weird huh?
About 7 months ago, I started a project about networking in ELT, because I noticed that we don’t interact face-to-face as much as we should/could. To my surprise the fellow foreign teachers who always talk about the topic online were the ones not willing to network. Kirsten Waechter was the only teacher who saw my post and came to talk to me. I found out that Kirsten works in a very similar environment as me and we have common interests in ELT, we will certainly keep in touch.
I had the opportunity to attend the TD & LT SIG pre-event and watch amazing talks, such as the one delivered by the ELTjam team (Nick Robinson & Jo Sayers) on “Applying startup thinking to teacher development” and our very own Teresa Gomes de Carvalho on “Click Like for Language Development”.
On April 4th, I had the privilege to present as part of the Forum on Online Teaching Skills, alongside three phenomenal ladies: Neenaz Ichaporia & Beth Caldwell (British Council) and Joseline Castaños (Laureate International Universities).
From my perspective, watching the inspirational JJ Wilson was the highlight of this event. Never before was I reminded so much about the beauty of my own nation as during his speech. JJ Wilson talked about social justice, Paulo Freire and how inclusive education must be. Love is the key.
To sum up, I must say that being part of the IATEFL 2017 Conference was a marvelous experience, I have learned tremendously and I can’t wait to attend the next one. Gotta start saving up now!
See you in Brighton!
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Special thanks to Virgínia Borges, Roseli Serra, Teresa Gomes de Carvalho, Raquel Ribeiro, Viviane Kirmeliene, Louise Potter, Ligia Lederman, Andréia Fernandes & Rob Howard.