Saturday, November 20, 2010

ACTFL - a gathering of language professionals!

I am in Boston at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Conference! There are 7,500 people here learning about how to teach languages better. They are meeting, talking, presenting! All though the hallways of the Sheraton and the Hynes Convention Center, you hear the sounds of many languages. People come here from all over the world and create connections. The place is hopping!

I came here and was given the ACTFL Northeast Regional Conference Teacher of the Year Award. Clarissa Adams Fletcher is the ACTFL National Language Teacher of the Year as well as the Southern Conference on Language Teaching, Teacher of the Year! (Clarissa is in the middle of the above picture). Martha Pero is the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Language, Teacher of the Year. Amy Velasquez represents the Pacific Northwest Council for Languages and Stephen Van Orden is the Southwest Conference on Language Teaching TOY.

We TOYS got to know each other really well over the past few days. To apply for the award, each of us, had to create a 50 page portfolio, replete with recommendations from colleagues, students and supervisors, samples of student work as well as a 30 minute film clip of our teaching.

Once we got to Boston, we had to individually meet with a panel who asked us questions about language and culture. The hardest bit was when we had to give a "mock press conference" to talk about issues of importance in language. We couldn't have notes at all and had to just launch into it.

I prepared by writing out my thoughts the day before and then, just before going to the interview, finding the seven words that would help me remember my sequence of ideas. I then looked for silly pictures to connect with those words to further assist my mind in retrieving information and thought. It worked! I am a visual learner and the pictures brought the ideas right into my head.

Yesterday morning, all of us were gathered on the stage in front of an audience of 3,500 people! The atmosphere was electric as each one of us walked across the stage, our pictures flashing on two giant screens. We didn't know who was going to win so each of us had thought about what we would say to the audience if chosen.

Our ACTFL staffers said that it would be a good idea to write a few words down, but where to put these words? I was wearing a fancy suit with no pockets at all. My solution was to stuff a piece of paper with my speech up my left sleeve and to hold my eyeglasses in my right hand, sort of stuffed up my right sleeve.

My great fear was that it would all drop out of my hands and sleeve onto the stage - crack, step, slip! In the end, it worked out and it turns out that I didn't need to say anything anyway! Clarissa kept her words to the audience simple, but sincere so she didn't have any Magna Carta in danger of slipping out of her clothing. Good for her and a lesson learned for me!

If I am in such a situation again, I will say something nice with no paper, look at the people, smile, pause and never try to stuff papers or glasses up any sleeves! Eeee gads!!

You learn something every day, even little things that make you laugh at yourself in moments of apparent glory!

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