Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Touched a Piece of Heaven in 2011

A popular New Year's saying is: "Let us not drink to the past, but to the future."  In this post, I'd like to make an exception.  I'd like to recognize the people and the organizations that brought me a great deal of personal joy and professional satisfaction in 2011.

The TESOL France Conference
I wouldn't be able to keep my sanity as a teacher and as a freelancer without my PLN (Professional Learning Network).  I mentioned it in a previous post that isolation is a teacher's worst enemy.  The individuals I've met through Twitter have provided me with classroom ideas, professional advice and contestant laughs. 

A wave of friends and colleagues arrived in Paris on November 4-6 2011 for the TESOL France Conference I organized.  I'd like to thank the following individuals who contributed to the conference's success. Your words of kindness and support resulted in a marathon of happy tears running down my face.

The Best Team of 2011
The TESOL France Conference team: Debbie West, Ros Wright, Gillian Evans, Eric Halvorsen, Laurence Whiteside and Jane Ryder who made ELT magic from scratch. It is a genuine pleasure to work with you all.

The Best Moment of 2011
Vicky Loras, Mike Harrison, Shelly Terrell Arjana Blazic, James Taylor, Dale Coulter, Ceri Jones, Sandy Millin, Shiv Rajendran, Stephen W. Henneberry and Paul Maglione for your thorough Conference Reports and fantastic contributions to the online ELT community.  I hope that others will read your posts and realize that this conference is an event not to be missed!

Willy Cardoso, Brad Patterson, Divya Brochier and Marisa Constantinides for continuing the conference conversations months after the event was over. Marisa, the #ELTCHAT videos are still a pleasure to watch.

And an extra emotional thank you goes out to Matt Ledding, who telepathically understood what drives me to organize TESOL France Conferences.  It really is, as he puts it: in order to shine a light on talents so that we see them and focus on growing and pass that growth on to others.

Working for eduPad 
Best Experience of 2011
I've mentioned to a few colleagues that I didn't have a summer vacation this year.  Instead, I worked for the educational app company, eduPad.  I admit it was the hardest I've ever worked in my entire existence, but I am grateful to the CEO,  Jérôme Serre, and his business partner, Daniel Jasmin, for their faith and encouragement as I hired and managed authors and editors, oversaw mountains of educational content, and formed professional links with educators who put their passion for teaching into the development of eduPad's applications.  

Over the course of three months I juggled busy class schedules and five time zones and worked with highly competent teachers and editors who included a homeschool parent, a physical education expert, scientists, historians, mathematicians, an Iraq War veteran, an SAT author, the incredibly creative Phil Wade, and the inspirational Lisa Dabbs who's insight was instrumental in ensuring the apps met US educational standards.

The Best Students of 2011
The Students at the Management Institute of Paris
Teaching at MIP was one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling, experiences I've ever had.  We all invested enormous amounts of time and energy in the students' development. It wasn't easy because some students had severe learning and behavioral difficulties. It was at MIP I learned the art of "tough love".

I'll never forget the Director of Languages' phone call when he informed me that MIP would be merging with another school in a different part of France. The Paris site was closing permanently. Suddenly, you are slapped with the question, "Was all that energy worth it?"

The process of relocating the students was painful and complicated.  We had to go from training the students for their futures as businessmen and women to counseling them on their transfer to other establishments. As the last day approached like an on-coming freight train, I witnessed inspirational growth in every one of them. In the end, they banded together to ensure the memories wouldn't die, the school's spirit would live on, and they would look after one another.

I wept on the last day, in the street, about a block away from the school.  I wept because they were some of the most creative, resilient and clever students I had ever taught.  They taught me more than they will ever know.  As another quote says: “A new year is unfolding – like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within.”  At MIP, I met dozens of unfolding blossoms. And I was incredibly fortunate to see their beauty within.  

Next year and the years ahead, I hope you witness petals unfolding. And as they do, shine the light on others' talents for us all to see. Continue to focus on growing and pass that growth on to others.