Monday, October 4, 2010

Flash Memories at the IATEFL Poland Conference, Bydgoszcz

First, I would like to thank those of you who made an honest attempt to kidnap me so that I could stay in Poland. Despite my efforts to remain in that wonderful country, I still had to return to Paris on September 20th just after the IATEFL Poland Bydgoszcz conference.

It was a spectacular event. All IATEFL Poland conferences are. What I appreciate most is the enthusiasm for veteran speakers (e.g. IATEFL Global President, Herbert Puchta) but also an openness to accept newer speakers who are just beginning to get their “conference sea legs.” Conferences shouldn’t be just talent shows, but environments where anyone can share information in their own style of communication.  That’s what I witnessed this year.  I would like to send a special thank you to those who supported my friend and colleague Vice President of TESOL France, Debbie West.  She hadn’t spoken in front of an audience for 16 years and chose your conference to get back in the habit of public speaking. Un grand merci a vous tous!

What IATEFL Poland conferences reveal is that its members all have such a passion for their trade as English teachers. They all work so incredibly hard! We are all on a relentless quest for satisfaction in our classes. I often say that I have 150 children – adults included – who I help explore and excavate the English language. I’m sure you all have your “kids” too. And it’s thanks to conferences and associations like IATEFL Poland that help you provide the highest quality of guidance and instruction. Moreover, Anna Rogalewicz-Gałucka has got to be the best conference planner on the planet. And the hard work of the dedicated volunteers leaves me awestruck. As the volunteer president of TESOL France, I can say I receive as much as I give being on the Executive Committee: the friendships, the personal and professional growth, the input, the fine-tuning of communication skills, all of which I put back into my classes. I truly feel all teachers should try being on an association committee at least once.  The rewards are countless.

Quelle histoire d’amour!
The town tour of Bydgoszcz was most interesting and revealed the enchanted history of the city. What a fantastic idea! Who knew that the history of Bydgoszcz is jam-packed with: lovers! And all sorts of love stories both humorous and tragic. Our guide donned a traditional costume and took us back in time to the medieval adventures of the citizens. The tour revealed the shear beauty of the Venice of Poland.

Pecha Kuchas and Tweets
I found dozing in the train back home impossible because the memory flashes kept bubbling up to the surface like voda gazovana. Especially when I thought of the fun we all had during the Pecha Kuchas.  Lindsay Clandfield introduced a fantastic, if not slightly lunatic, lineup (Jamie Keddie, Geoff Tranter and myself).  From crazy teacher inventions to Polish tongue twisters, the standing-room-only event is one I’m sure you will see again at future IATEFL Poland conferences.  A special thank you to Magda Klys, Jarosław Kawałek and Peter Whiley for your help with Chrząszcz (pronounced: Hshon'shch).

And finally IATEFL Poland has been introduced to Twitter! The tweets and tweeting during the conference made it easier to get the juice out of more talks (e.g. I was tweeting during David. A. Hill’s talk while Lindsay Clandfield tweeted during Vicki Hollet’s and all our followers online got to read about the best of both).  And there are now more “tweeps” after this conference. Consider following those who were there: Peter Whiley of IATEFL Poland (@iateflPoland); Jamie Keddie (@cheimi10); Vicki Hollett (@vickihollet) Paul Maglione (@paulmaglione); Lindsay Clandfield (@lclandfield); Veronika Salandyk (@weronika_sal) Marta Mrozik (@martulmj); Klaudia Skutela (@kskutela); Ron Mukerji (@Englodysiac) and me: @bethcagnol

Welcome Home
Did you know that Poland looks just like my native Virginia, USA? I feel at home in Poland with the added linguistic gymnastics Polish has to offer. My experience hearing Polish is a bit like listening to a recorded message backwards. From time to time, a word or phrase that’s slightly comprehensible jumps out at me. The language is so musical and seems to dance off the lips. It’s a language I can enjoy not understanding. It’s a language one must smile to speak. The covered vowels, the kissed consonants pull me onto the dance floor. Envious, I can only stand there and watch.

But dance I did this time.  I learned so much. I can only sink into an infatuated state when two people start a rapid-fire conversation in Polish next to me, or when a TLK train rolls into the station or when I listen to a Chopin nocturne.  Poland, you are my muse.