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And so the 2011 IATEFL conference in Brighton slides down over the horizon with the sun, which shone benignly and unmoved on us all.

A funny animal, the conference. Once a year, from all parts of the world, it draws its devotees: all with their own agendas and expectations, yet united in their wish to be there, to be part of this coming together. So what were my expectations? What was my agenda?

 I had three main reasons for going:

 1. to be part of the dogme symposium.

2. to attend my particular SIG PCE and

3. to learn.

The first two were incredible, amazing and massively affirming. What a rich mine of knowledge, experience and expertise was laid at my feet during those two things. And more of them later…..

And then the things I learnt. I learnt from those who have experienced it that the CELTA is almost without exception a miserable experience. “Bruised and battered”, “the hardest thing I’ve ever done”, “the most negative learning experience I’ve ever had”, “it nearly destroyed me” are just some of the comments I heard, from achingly sincere and highly motivated people.

I also learnt that professionalism is something near and dear to the hearts of many. With the unsolicited feedback about the CELTA that reverberated around the session rooms, I’m not sure how much more of an ordeal EFL teachers could withstand in order to try and catch this elusive “professional” status. Selling ourselves better, becoming savvy about our own expertise and knowledge, not shying away from the limelight are all ways to step put from under the yoke of overwork and underpay that seems to dog us all. During the BESIG PCE, I asked an uncomfortable question of the employers in the room. I asked them how much they paid their teachers, those people who go out day after day and deliver the goods. No one was prepared to tell me. This suggests the hourly rate is embarrassingly low, even to them. It really is now time to address this and make some changes. It is unconscionable that people with the skills, knowledge and expertise that we all have to be working for insulting hourly rates.

I also learnt there are some astonishingly gifted and inspiring young teachers out there: Dale Coulter, Mike Harrison, David Warr, Anthony Gaughan, Karenne Sylvester, Chia Suan Chong, Willy Cardoso among others. Lucky the students who walk into their classrooms. But how long will it be before we lose them to higher paying jobs? How many of these gifted, inspiring and dedicated teachers will have to leave a job they love because £15 an hour doesn’t pay the mortgage?

I also learnt that despite this, there are some incredible people who spend much of their free time organising, arranging and putting themselves and their families way way down their own agendas to make sure this conference was a success for me in particular. Carl Dowse, Marjorie Rosenberg, Andi White, Mike Hogan, Andrzej Stesik, Cornelia Kreis-Meyer, Tony Myers, Julia Waldner, Bethany Cagnol and the amazing |Mercedes Viola. You have to know that without people like you, this conference would not have happened

And I learnt that most of the people we all know and love – besides being learned and knowledgeable and deeply committed to their work – are also enormously generous and almost universally humble. You know who you are….

And as the immediate euphoria and sense of togetherness and bonhomie dissolves away with the tide, and we all go back to the routine of our normal lives, some things will be forgotten, some things will be remembered, but surely in some way we have all been changed?


16 responses »

  1. Great summing up, Candy, although don’t forget your own contribution to it all.

    What was interesting for me this year was being on Twitter and getting the pre-conference buzz. Twitter is very good at creating interest and excitement around shared events, like IATEFL. You can almost feel it, and it makes you want to take part.

    • Thanks, Tony! It was a really pleasure to take part and I have to say the Twitterati were out in force! I’m so glad that that has made it more real and buzzy for those who couldn’t be there. We need to thank the diligent twitterers for their contribution!

  2. Wonderful summary of the conference Candy. Don’t forget also the more accomplished who were interested in what the young teachers have to say.

    Experiencing the atmosphere of IATEFL for the first time, what struck me the most was how everyone was there for the same thing. Whatever belief about the right or wrong way to teach, everyone there was truly enamored of teaching. You can see the buzz still reverberating across Twitter, which I think is testament to this.

    • Hi Dale

      Thanks for stopping by! I totally agree: the so-called “big” names, who are interested in the new, bright, inventive and inspired teachers, like yourself, give us all a real feeling of being part of the bigger game and making a contribution – very affirming and encouraging.


  3. It was one of my conference highlights being present at your dogme talk, forthright, laced with humour, the stories told with compassion. And then of course having the pleasure of meeting you afterwards 🙂

    • Hi David
      You make me feel very humble and thank you for this comment. I am also very pleased that you liked my contribution to the dogme symposium. Huge moment for me as you can imagine!
      Meeting you was also a real pleasure for me. We need to be in touch.I see that you are in Birmingham? I’ll tweet you my email address.


  4. We didn’t meet at the conference, but I just wanted to say that your talk at the symposium was one of my highlights of the whole event. It was powerful and enjoyable very motivating.

    As for the post here, you’re dead right, it is about time issues of pay were discussed more, but it isn’t just the pay, it’s the contractual conditions as well, in many cases.

    I don’t remember my Celta being quite as awful as people at the conference made out. I enjoyed it, even though it was intense, but I think it very much depends on where you do it and the tutors you get.

    • Hi Richard. Thanks so much for stopping by and thank you too for your comments on the dogme symposium. I really appreciate what you said and I am so glad that you enjoyed the talk.I wish we had met, but please keep in touch. Perhaps we will get to meet face to face at the next conference, or somewhere else on the EFL circuit.
      Once again, many thanks for your very affirming comments:they mean a lot to me.

  5. I have never taught on a CELTA – I did and subsequently taught the old CTEFLA, and as a trainee at the Bell School in Cambridge in 1987 I thoroughly enjoyed the experience (their DTEFLA was a huge bore, though.) What’s up with the CELTA? Why is it so unpopular?

    • Thanks for popping in Steve!

      I have no idea what the problem with the CELTA is. There were all these freshly-squeezed CELTA people at the conference and to a man (and woman) – well those who said anything, of course – they said it was a gruelling experience. Whether it was the input sessions, the prep, the actual teaching, the amount of stuff to be go through, I don’t know. I didn’t do a CELTA in this country – I learned on the hoof, so to speak, in South Africa and did the DELTA over here. Of that, I only enjoyed – and I use the word advisedly – the input sessions.

  6. Hi Candy,

    First of, like others above, I enjoyed your talk at the dogme symposium greatly (as well as the symposium itself!). It was certainly a highlight of the conference for me.

    I might be unusual in that my only experience of CELTA is hearing the two trainers in my office talk about their trainees. I did a year long PGCE with a focus on ESOL, so in some ways I feel I lucked out in that I got time and space to absorb what I was reading and doing, I was able to get experience ‘working’ in a college (at first taking over two of my mentors classes, and then more – oh yeh, an aside, maybe having a mentor for a PGCE is another big bonus, not competing so much for the attention of a trainer with other CELTA trainees for questions and advice); but I think I might have missed out a bit on the ‘deeper’ issues of language teaching (different methodologies, all the people you’re supposed to read, etc, etc) as I had to train in a wider context of FE rather than specifically ELT. Hmmm, not 100% sure where I’m at, but since being on blogs and twitter, I think there are a few holes which I need to address in future development of myself.

    There is one thing I can say, it’s the ability that twitter and blogs and conferences give me to interact and learn from all those you mention above, yourself, and many others that I find make this such an invigorating thing to do for me.

    Lets hope that the negatives mentioned above can be changed and don’t take away from this all.


    • Hi Mike
      Many many thanks for your most welcome comments. Talking at the symposium was one of the highlights of my career and to know that it meant something to people in the audience like you makes it that much more fantastic. I am humbled by what you say and most privileged to have been speaking to such receptive people.
      I have no personal axe to grind about the CELTA – I am just surprised as to how many people found it a gruelling experience. I’m sure it has made them better people and the rigours of EFL will be met with equanimity by them now.
      Please come by the blog whenever you like and thank you again for the most welcome comment.

  7. Wonderful conference summary, Candy, and great to catch up with you again in Brighton!

    Your talk was one of the conference highlights for me, too. It was powerful and moving, and I identified with it all the more because I’ve taught asylum seekers and refugees myself who’ve had a burning need to tell their stories.

    I’ve one or two things to add about the CELTA as well, but as you’ve posted some further thoughts about it now, I’ll comment there.


  8. “Underwear” – won’t forget that story in a hurry. Great presentation during Dogme symposium, one of the best sessions I attended. Not entirely convinced about the approach myself but have great respect for the sincerity and commitment of those that are.

    • Hi japglish – glad you liked the symposium. Sharing a platform with those giants wasn’t easy, but what a fantastic experience. The “underwear” story has circled the globe, mainly through the chaps that were in the class – in their hands, it became the “story of the week” and created much mirth whenever it was told: quite funny really, when the retelling by any of them landed up being about as funny as a written version of “You say potato and I say potato”!
      See you soon!


  9. Pingback: Every Dogme Has Its Day (Part 2) « Teacher Training Unplugged

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