The IATEFL conference is just round the corner and talk about the conference, its attendees and the conference programme is filling my social media feed.
For those who are unfamiliar with the IATEFL annual conference, here’s a quick overview.
IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) organizes an annual conference around March/April and it is usually held somewhere in the UK where there’ll be a large conference centre. Attracting more than 2000 delegates from all over the world, the IATEFL conference sees not just English teachers, but teacher trainers, education managers, school owners, writers, publishers, teaching organization leaders and volunteers, all coming together, attending some of the 500-plus talks and workshops, socializing and networking and most of all, sharing.
The speakers and presenters will obviously be sharing their knowledge and experience with their audience. But members of the audience are sometimes asked to pair up with the people sitting next to them (a great opportunity to meet new people!) and share their experience as well. And during the breaks, the delegates will meet other delegates and share their thoughts on the conference so far, their ideas about teaching, and sometimes even details of their personal lives.
Some conference attendees might Tweet about talks they are attending, sharing photos of the conference on their Facebook walls, and some will even go on to write blogposts and journal/newsletter articles about the talks and workshops they have benefitted from attending.
And some may go back to their universities, schools and teaching organisations and share what they have learnt with their fellow colleagues who didn’t have the opportunity of going to the conference. This sharing might take place in the format of a casual chat in the staffroom or a formal cascading workshop during a teacher development session.
But why do people bother sharing?
To understand that, I think we must first understand that there are different levels of sharing (or not wanting to share).
An ex-colleague once said to me that she didn’t mind sharing her lesson materials and ideas with other colleagues in the building because it was about being kind and caring for the people you work with everyday. Sharing your lessons with them meant that they would be more likely to share theirs with you in the near future. Everyone benefits.
However, this colleague couldn’t see the point of sharing her lessons on a more globally accessible public platform like a blog (unless she was being paid for it). The only reason she could see for others wanting to do such a thing was that they wanted to be famous and get noticed by publishers.
“I don't want to be famous in the ELT world and I don’t want to become an ELT writer. So why would I give my lessons away for free, and in the process invite criticism?”
Fairly recently, a fellow ELT blogger, colleague and friend of mine posted online saying that her co-worker had reacted in bewilderment at the time she spent blogging. The co-worker didn’t understand why she bothered writing such posts. The blogger, in posting her comment, tried to explain that blogging really helped her to reflect on things.
In fact, many of the comments in response to this friend of mine all supported her belief that the process of putting our thoughts and experience down in words actually helps us to understand and reflect upon our views, our notions and our feelings more clearly and therefore more effectively derive better-defined learning experiences from them.
These lessons that we learn from sharing are obviously not restricted to blogging, but can take place any time we put our thoughts and emotions into words (or images), whether they are words (or images) on a conference presentation slide, or words spoken during a pub conversation with a colleague.
The very act of sharing elucidates and gives clarity to how we process information and how we learn. And for this same reason, we ask our students at the end of each lesson to tell their partners about what they had learnt that day.
So why do we share?
Some share to establish common ground and bond with another.
Some share to announce what they know (and hopefully boost their reputation).
Some share to be kind and to simply help out a friend or colleague.
Some share as a kind of investment, in the hope that others would share with them in time to come.
But whatever your ulterior motives for sharing, the one that benefits most of all in the end is you. For through sharing, we learn and we gain awareness of ourselves.
Chia Suan Chong is a General English and Business English teacher and teacher trainer, with a degree in Communication Studies (Broadcast and Electronic Media) and an MA in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching from King’s College London.
Fascinated by the interplay between culture, language and thought, Chia is also an intercultural skills trainer and materials developer, and is now based in York.
She is also the voice of @ETprofessional on Twitter. You can find out more about her on her blogsite www.chiasuanchong.com