A Day of Professional Development: KOTESOL International Conference 2012

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On October 20th and 21st Sookmyung Women's University held the 20th KOTESOL International Conference. During this time teacher's and ESOL enthusiasts gathered to see presentations ranging from topics such as mobile language learning to gaining more participation from students. Yet most importantly it felt like a time to celebrate the profession of teaching English as a second or foreign language.

I for one enjoyed the presentations I attended and especially found the conference well organized and entertaining.

The opening ceremony (seen above) showcased key speakers and introductory speeches by the University's President and other figures.

A hot topic in the ESOL profession must be how new technology can be used by the teacher and students. Certainly the plenary presentation touched on this in their "Mobile Language Learning: Turning Challenges into Opportunities" by Mike Levy and Glenn Stockwell. Although, I am somewhat conflicted on being told how mobile devices can be used for education because I think for most of us this comes naturally. I would have liked instead to see actual lessons presented where the use of these devices pan out. Instead of a hodgepodge of how it all could work.

Yet the presentations I attended offered more focus on subject areas, which I was keen to gain more knowledge on.

The first presentation I went to was in the morning and was called, "Reading Fluency: Rationale, Measurements, and Interventions" by Elton LaClare. I found his presentation simple and to the point with no real fancy flare to it. Yet that was good as the subject he talked about is important to think about when teaching. How do we assess our students reading skills in a way that will be accurate but also useful to the student? He showed several ways one can do this and web tools that can help. Overall, a good presentation.

After lunch I stepped into the presentation, "The M & M's of Teaching English to Young Learner: Using Music, Movement, and Multiple Intelligence" by Kathleen Kampa. Now I should have known before heading in that this would feel more like an ad campaign for Oxford books, but it didn't hit me till later on.

Her presentation was very lively, useful and on point with getting kids up and moving in class. Certainly I agree that young learners need movement, music and lots of action to help them learn English. I would say I teach young learners but I feel there is a distinct difference between a 9 year old vs. a 6 year old. For one I couldn't really get my sometimes bitter students to get up and sing and clap. But don't get me wrong I do find physical ways to get them involved.

Kathleen's presentation was to show us how these interactive attributes can be executed in the classroom. However, I think she had everyone doing the exercises a little too much. I would have rather liked to hear more about the effectiveness of these devices, then swinging my arms around and touching my toes. It also made me feel like a horrible teacher for not teaching my kids this way. And I really wanted to ask her, "Do you think someone could teach in this style for 8 hours a day?" It reminded me of my hagwon days, and how they (parents and supervisors) expect you to be this active, cheerful person for every class, and the unrealistic nature this creates.

So I didn't quite swing my arms enthusiastically or shout out "triangle" as loudly as other folks. But if I am ever to be a room with 6 year olds again, I'll know what to do. Just turn every task into a chant, smile and swing my arms a lot.

Thankfully the next presentation I went to hit the nail on the head for what I was looking for. Jackie Bolen of the blog, "My Life! Teaching in a Korean University" gave an excellent presentation called, "Teaching: the Small Stuff that Actually Matters".

She outlined 10 useful items that teacher's can use to focus on when developing their career in the classroom. Although this presentation was set for University teacher's her general point can be transferred to other levels. I particularly agreed with her point, "Don't hide" as I for one think it is best to be out and about in your classroom. Not sitting or standing behind your desk, but up and around the room. Sure teacher's need to take a rest at some point, and this could be done during work time. But generally one should show they are in command of their classroom and let students know they are there to be involved with them.

After taking part in presentations one could wander through the hallways checking out materials and booths with sponsors of the program. However, this became quite dizzying and it kind of made me late to a few presentations.

Outside there were tents up with coffee and snacks for lunch. I enjoyed a pastrami sandwich from Suji's.

If you are interested in developing yourself further as a teacher, or would like to start understanding this profession more, than I highly recommend attending these functions. You can start by joining the KOTESOL organization, which will later give you discounted entry into these events. If anything attending workshops or conferences is a great way to network and meet other people interested in going beyond griping, to talking about how to improve the results in their students. For one of the key speakers said it best, "...we are here because we aren't just satisfied that our students are quiet and parents have stopped complaining ...", we are here to go beyond what is asked of us. 


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