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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte BULKELEY CREDLE

Academic Conference Recap: TESOL France 2022

This past annual colloquium was full of “firsts” - first time attending an international conference and presenting during my first year teaching English in France. 

It was a wonderful experience, and if you are a new TESOL teacher, or find yourself with even a little personal curiosity of what goes on in ESL classrooms across France, sign up and attend. If you have your own ideas, submit a presentation proposal. Just do it, and you will be glad you did. 

Here’s how I know: I graduated in May (2022) from North Carolina State University with my MA in French and TESOL and had just accepted a position with French public elementary schools. I sat in a professor’s office to share the exciting news. Her first comment was “how wonderful!” Her second was, “have you found any conferences there?” Having just submitted my last project in between wrapping up grading for multiple classes I was teaching and wedding planning meetings, I had, in fact, not looked into any conferences. 

A few minutes later, we found TESOL France’s website with information about the 41st annual colloquium. Having just completed a term paper on spelling pedagogy for long-term language encoding, I submitted a proposal a couple weeks later, between moving across the USA, getting married, and moving, again, to France. 

Fast forwarding a few months: the conference was such a positive experience. I had the opportunity to meet other teachers with so much to give and pass on and to share research I’ve personally seen make a huge difference in my collective 22 classrooms I’d been teaching in since October.

I offer this story in hopes of encouraging others who have never participated in a conference to sign up and even submit a proposal. Specifically for first-time attendees and/or presenters, here are a few of the many reasons you’ll be glad you signed up and maybe even fit the proposal preparation and presentation process into your schedule.

For first time attendees:

You will meet talented and committed ESL teachers in education, business, and other professional fields that rely heavily on individuals having a working and progressing competency in English. This interdisciplinary need puts a lot of demands on teaching “the best” and “making your students get it,” when ultimately results come from students learning how to work smarter, not harder. Especially if you’re a new teacher in the TESOL field, you may find yourself running out of ideas or with students you don’t know how to help. Connecting with other talented and committed teachers is a reliable and energizing way to go back to the research and learn from others’ expertise so that you have more effective ideas you can incorporate into your classroom.

You will learn how to apply your own expertise in ways that you never thought about or maybe never even heard of before. The TESOL field essentially makes the world one big attainable classroom because it takes something « scholarly » and presents it as an attainable tool that anyone can use. With that being said, this conference hosts TESOL instructors from public schools, private schools, international schools, schools with more than enough resources, schools that struggle, business schools, private learning companies, and the university systems. Meeting people from all areas of the field gave me a more holistic view of the work taking place in all kinds of classrooms across the world.

You will have the opportunity to preview new resources from major publishers like National Geographic Education, LanguageCert, and Express Publishing Inc. During the breaks between every other session, meeting the reps and asking questions about the resources saves so much time rather than spending hours on the websites later to find which ones might be best for your current teaching situation. Whether you have a pulse on the newest resources coming out each year or have your set list of what you like to use, spending a little time at sponsor tables throughout the weekend gave me a peek at the direction publishing companies are taking with regard to what will be considered relevant, effective, and available in the next few years. 

Because ESL jobs (especially international ones) can often take you to a place you’ve never heard of and each school and context is different, a main challenge new teachers can encounter is not having a sense of the greater context and direction of their work. Attending a conference like TESOL France’s annual colloquium gives you the opportunity to fill in the gaps you may have which leave your classroom feeling low on engagement and disconnected.

For first time presenters:

We are often so committed to immediate tasks that it feels unrealistic to take an afternoon or a weekend to attend a conference, much less prepare something to present ourselves to, even if we have amazing ideas. 

Here’s a few reasons to take the plunge, prepare, and commit to present, especially as a first-timer:

Make the time by preparing early and relieving the pressure of reinventing the wheel with your presentation topic. With nearly 40 sessions in the weekend, none of them are the same and each one covers a unique, yet applicable, topic. With that being said, your own research or experience most likely has a place within the diverse range of topics covered that many people would find beneficial. 

If you are a recent graduate like myself (at the time), you may not have years of experience, but you do have an up-to-date understanding of the newest research. With the long lists of responsibilities, reading through new research in its dense, academic journal-style and reformulating it to apply to each classroom takes more time and effort than is realistic for many teachers. Your niche as a recent graduate is your working understanding of new research. The opportunity to present gives you the chance to make a contribution to the field that is just as significant as teaching day in and day out: making new research and pedagogy more accessible to teachers who work with students all day with infinite needs and language goals. So set a timer, reformulate a term paper or another area of your personal and professional interest to make it digestible, submit the proposal, and see what happens. 

There is a lot of support for presenters with this conference! Leading up to the conference, the team of coordinators were accessible via email, helpful, and happy to answer questions or connect me with someone who could answer them! Additional support included tech support that would check each room before sessions began to make sure each presenter was ready to go with the tech they needed to make their content most accessible for their listeners. Before my session, neither my flash drive nor my email would pull up and I couldn’t access my presentation. Two tech support staff came to my rescue, helped me reset the computer and triple checked I was ready to go before going on to the next room.

Conferences can often seem oversized and impersonal, but I can’t recommend working with this association and conference more for a first conference experience. Having attended this conference as a first-timer, I feel so much more prepared to engage in the field going forward. The staff, the other speakers, the sponsors, and other attendees could not have been more engaged and enthusiastic for their work and making it more accessible for others. Attend this conference, get involved, and you’ll be so glad you did.


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