My 2014 calendar is pretty full – as you can see below.
The first conference I attended this year was the International House Director of Studies Conference in January. I gave the opening plenary to a well-packed audience. Sadly, I could afford to spend only two days so I had no more than a couple of hours to marvel at the beautiful sights of Greenwich where the conference was held. Chief Operating Officer Lucy Horsefield – thanks a lot for the invitation.
This reminds me. It was in 1982 or 1983 that together with two colleagues I founded the Hungarian affiliate of International House. Although pupils still had to learn Russian for nine years at school, hardly anyone could ask for a glass of water in Russian. In contrast, there was a huge interest in learning English, so much so that on the first day of registration at IH Hungary people were queueing up in the street outside our offices to sign up. They completely blocked the traffic so the police had to be asked to restore order.
A gap of three months and off I go to Harrogate, the annual IATEFL conference. I’m very anxious to attend this year, because I hope to take over as Vice-President of IATEFL at the Annual General Meeting. Please keep your fingers crossed for me!
April is the busiest month of the year as far as I’m concerned. A few days after the IATEFL conference I’m scheduled to drive to Berehove, a small town in Ukraine, just a hop over the Hungarian border. I’ll give a talk at the local college, where my host will be Ilona Huszti, a former graduate of the Language Pedagogy Doctoral Programme at my university. Now that the political situation is rather precarious in Ukraine I feel particularly committed to go.
The third event in April is the ELTA National Conference in Tirana. I’ll go under the auspices of SOL, a non-profit organisation based in Devon. Under the leadership of Grenville Yeo, a modest and highly efficient guy, SOL has run low cost and high quality study trips for teachers and learners of English from Central Eastern Europe for nearly 25 years. I very much look forward to going to Tirana because the local teachers are reported to be exceptionally enthusiastic professionals. (And also because I haven’t been to Albania before…)
Then comes June with a trip to Tuzla, Bosnia & Herzegovina, again with SOL support. The newly-formed Tuzla teachers’ association called TETA is doing a remarkable job, trying to get a national association off the ground in this fractured country. This in itself is evidence of the dedication and commitment of the Tuzla teachers. I can hardly wait to make their acquaintance.
Two conferences for the autumn. The first one is on home turf. IATEFL Hungary is celebrating its 25th anniversary conference. I’m very proud of this affiliate because I was among the founders and its first president. I plan to give a non-P.C. plenary, arguing that the use of cutting-edge technology in the classroom is not a panacea. In this regard let me quote Neil Postman whose book entitled Technopoly – The Surrender of Culture to Technology was published in 1992, just before the advent of the Internet:
…we are currently surrounded by throngs of … one-eyed prophets, who see only what new technologies can do and are incapable of imagining what they will undo. We call such people Technophiles. They gaze on technology as a lover does on his beloved, seeing it without blemish and entertaining no apprehension for the future. They are therefore dangerous and are to be approached cautiously (p.5).
The last conference I’m due to attend this year is in Barcelona, where I’ll be hosted by the Cambridge English Language Assessment Platinum Examination Centre. I’ve already been to Catalunya as a speaker in Lleida but never spent more than a few hours in Barcelona. Once being there I’d love to see a football match at Camp Nou, the Barca stadium. And a remote hope: a three-hour drive to Andorra – one more country to tick off.
2015? We’ll see.