Why conferences or seminars?



Dr Dharmendra Sheth.
Ex National Vice President, ELT@I
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Why conferences or seminars?

Every once in a while, conscientious professionals check whether what they are doing is up to the mark and worthwhile. This forms a vital component of continuing professional development (CPD).

After a conference a few months ago, some colleagues gave vent to their frustration in a violent outburst. They grumbled to me about some of the most obvious pitfalls in our field—the poor quality of presentations, lack of sincerity, widespread apathy among the new generation of teachers, abysmally poor command of the English language and so on. They were of the opinion that we should do away with professional events such as seminars and conferences. To my mind, seminars and conferences are crucial to professional development. Let me share with you just a few of the reasons why we need conferences.

Indeed, first of all, every conference is a success. For conferences provide opportunities for networking, sharing experiences, raising issues, resolving issues and, and, most importantly, for professional development. I am sure that during every conference, some idea, some activity, some expression sticks in your mind, and that makes a difference in your teaching, in your students’ communication skills, in your students’ lives. Ultimately, we are teachers, and teachers are transformative intellectuals, agents for change, aren’t we?

The second important reason why we must organize and attend conferences is that they foster a sense of belonging and empowerment. You know that, as teachers of English, we sometimes feel powerless and dissociated from society. Not infrequently we have to teach what we do not like or agree with. We do not or cannot teach what we want our learners to master, or do not or cannot test what we believe we have taught. Some people in some committee somewhere provide a framework for syllabuses that we sometimes find trivial, unjustified or unacceptable in other ways; some other committee somewhere prepares textbooks for us to teach, and some people somewhere else evaluate our performance through our students’ performance. Conferences give you opportunities to vent your feelings about these and other problems, to seek clarifications, and to understand other perspectives regarding these issues. And when we gather together in conferences, we stand a chance of becoming capable of influencing the whole range of activities in ELT about which we experience problems.

The third important reason is, perhaps, very personal. Think about your own situation. If you are presenting a paper or doing a workshop at a conference or a seminar, I am sure you start thinking about ELT since the day you come to know about the conference. Knowingly or unknowingly ever since then, your mind gets preoccupied with thoughts of ELT. You may read a few books in preparation for writing your paper, talk to a few colleagues and perhaps even conduct an experiment or two to test the idea you propose to present in your paper. There can be little doubt that such thinking makes you a better and happier teacher. I am sure that you will agree with my reasons for justifying English Teachers’ conferences.

Well, finally, allow me to add one more justification for holding conferences: they help us examine where we stand in our profession and change or confirm the chief objectives of our work. If we do not know where to go from the position at which we find ourselves, we can never find or make the path that leads to our destination.

If this small write-up motivates a few teachers to attend or organise ELT events such as seminars or conferences, it will have achieved its purpose.

Happy learning and teaching.

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