My Conference Reflection
By KAREN RUSSIKOFF
—I was headed off campus and encountered a colleague who asked where I was running. Even though I responded with my typical conference enthusiasm that I was on my way to CATESOL, I was met with her question about using my whole weekend for “that.” Because the moment was fleeting—we were only passing—I was left feeling a bit flustered.
Why didn’t she just “get it”? Why don’t all teachers “get it”? Why don’t they know how much is to be gained by attending this fabulous professional-development weekend—the opportunity that makes us light up in our classes for days and weeks and months afterward?
So during the Annual Conference in San Diego, I found myself consciously tallying all the different ways I was learning, adapting, networking, and sharing.
Certainly the plenaries offered new knowledge or different ways of considering what I already knew. (The five-paragraph pseudo-assignment may be lost in the genre wave? Ha! Good! Brexit was as emotional as the US election? Hmm! And the amazing data collection of recent lexical usage has resulted in, alas, the drifting of socialism!)
I noted my own adaptation of ideas, such as morphing fully flipped classes to partial, and new paraphrasing strategies challenged me to regain control of that area I had come to avoid. My own panel discussion on “stretch courses” required considerable reflection.
Because I had time with publishing reps to discuss new materials and sites for my students’ use, and time to attend to technology sessions, my need to update was somewhat satisfied. Chatting with the chapter reps, I was further apprised on the health of the organization, learning about shifts, resurgence, and novelty within the 12 chapters across the state. (Hurray, Orange County! Great, Los Padres! Yes, Inland Empire!)
One true delight the conference reliably holds is appreciation of fantastic colleagues, and I am always happy to have some time to catch up over coffee or share a moment passing in hallways. At this point in my career, many of my former grad students are now my colleagues and sharing what they are doing in their professional and personal lives was both heartwarming and fascinating. All of the presenters who had worked so diligently to offer us thoughtful, creative, and important research and pedagogy/andragogy contributed personally in major ways. Moreover, while stuffing bags the night before the conference, I again appreciated all the volunteers who made the conference details work so well for the rest of us and for the remainder of the weekend. Those signs didn’t mysteriously appear; the balloons didn’t blow themselves up! The program didn’t print itself and the conference wasn’t organized from beyond! Again, dedicated professionals were there—this network of like-minded service-oriented people—so pleasant and so rare beyond CATESOL’s corridors! And many had been there for more than a year in advance!
Another positive note was the involvement of new students and teachers entering the profession. I found their presence energizing, specifically as I watched them decode their way through the conference booklet, or trek, map in hand, to and from session rooms, or discover the meaning of the word plenary, and especially fun when I observed their surprise when they realized that a “rap session” had nothing to do with music!
The conference opportunity was exhilarating. I certainly benefited from it, but perhaps more important, my students will for the indefinite future.
In every way, for the entire weekend, I intently learned, adapted, networked, and shared. No wonder I was so tired afterward! Sadly, my colleague who had questioned me at my departure missed all of this—and so have her students!
Thanks to everyone who helped create this excellent Annual Conference!
Karen Russikoff is president of CATESOL 2016-2017.
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