IATEFL Liverpool 2013

A report by MSSUA representative, Lenka Kroupová

I´m back home after a busy, bustling, vibrant week spent at the biggest ELT event I´ve ever been to. It´s been more than a week and I thought by this time I should have had enough time to organize thoughts and make my reflections. However, I´m still under a big impression.

Pre-conference expectations

Actually, I had a few pre-conference expectations and ideas. Basically, I imagined it´d be

  • big.
  • full of sessions and talks given by people I´ve always wanted to hear presenting.
  • fun to assist to.

Curiously, I have to say I was wrong in all of my assumptions.

The IATEFL wheels set to motion

Perhaps the most interesting thing to assist to was the perfectly smooth organization of the conference. I took all my hats off (both the cap and the woolen one, it was rather cold at that time) because having the opportunity to see such a big organization working so nicely and precisely was exciting. And what was the best, all organizers seems to fully enjoy it!

Another fantastic and inspirational aspect of the IATEFL conference was the work of individual Special Interest Groups. As I learnt, there are presently 15 operating SIG groups. Their job is excellent and very creative as I could see at the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG open forum discussion and the Associate´s Day.

To be perfectly honest, I didn´t know what to expect of the Associates Day. It soon came out that it´s an incredibly energetic group of people representing all the local associations of IATEFL all around the world. It was funny to observe the similarities and differences of our associations and to my mind, also very beneficial. I loved the idea which came from Sudan of the „Skype Key note sessions“ at conferences and also the different suggestions to organize competitions for teachers, blogathons and many more. Also the group work was very productive because this way I could present MSSUA and our job to a group of people with similar interests and discuss things we have in common. Cool, isn´t it?

Talks and sessions

Choosing which session to go to was not an easy job. With up to 22 sessions colliding, I wished a few times to be able to torn myself in parts. Luckily I didn´t do that but made a few excellent choices of sessions instead. I do have to say I enjoy more sessions and talks smaller in number of participants because of the higher interactivity element and closer connection between the speaker and the audience.

I thoroughly enjoyed the session given by Margit Szesztay who questioned the impact of questions we teacher ask on the minds of our learners. The activities she proposed were highly creative, easy to adapt and definitely thought provoking.

More food for thoughts came from Mark Hancock who focused on the need to practice decoding connected speech and making students aware of the elements which make it difficult in the conversation stream. The Beatles based activities called Yes, today and Hey, Chewed were not just hilarious but most importantly, pointed to something I come across all the time in listening activities with students. If you´re interested in checking out the Hey, Chewed lyrics, look here.

The talk Luke Meddings and Burcu Akyol called The unplugged and the connected: where ideas meet suggested the plugged element can enrich the unplugged experience, which is basically the question I encounter almost daily. I love using technologies and I need to use them, but on the other hand, I feel an urge to step a bit away from them, because both me as a teacher and my learners are online most of the day and having a nice face to face chat in lesson is really refreshing. But what about blendning them and (un)plug?

In fact, the list of creative and stimulating sessions does not stop here. There were simply too many to mention them all!

Events and socializing

The offer of events was very rich ranging from the Associates Day dinner, Conference welcome reception, publishers´ receptions, Open Mic nights and Failure fests.

After twisting and shouting with Nóra Tartsay and Katalin Tamas from IATEFL Hungary at the Cavern Club, the renewal of the agreement landed in my hands to be given to our President, Líba Kohoutová. That´s why I believe it´s meeting people that makes these events so great and beneficial also regarding the work of Teachers´ Associations.

The city of Liverpool

The Mersey, the dockland, the waterfront, lambananas everywhere, museums, pubs, the Cavern club, the scouse accent, the vibrant Grand National atmosphere, shopping and encountering the God (as recommended in the Cathedral information leaflet)... I loved it all. A superb city to visit.

So why my pre-conference expectations were wrong? Because the conference was not big, it was HUGE, with more than 2.000 participants. It was not full of sessions, it was PACKED with sessions I´d wanted to go to. Finally, it was not just fun to assist to but it´s an INVALUABLE chance to compare the truly international conference with teachers from all the continents with our local ones. In fact, I totally enjoy smaller scaled conferences as they are more personal and focused but having the chance to see the „big one“ was an amazing experience.

So thank you, IATEFL, what a good job! And thanks a million, MSSUA, for making this trip possible for me. I learnt a lot and I hope I was a fair representative :-)

PD. Have a look at some photos from the conference here. Careful, Beatles singing aloud!

Lenka Kroupová


Moravian and Silesian Association of Teachers of English