I attended the TESOL International Convention in late March (get it? Conventional?) and here are a few of the things I learned.
1. McCormick Place is absolutely enormous!
2. There are way too many things I want to do with my future TESOL degree
3. And lastly...I feel inadequate and still find myself questioning whether I'm smart enough.
I arrived for my first day of the convention in time for a 7:00am talk. This meant waking up at 4:00, leaving the house by 5:00 and arriving at my Spot Hero reserved parking spot in a parking garage on the corner of Indiana Ave. and Cermak. I had to walk several blocks, but I managed to do this mostly indoors. Mostly through McCormick Center itself. Through the West Building, between North and South Buildings and eventually to the East Building (Lakeside). Check-in was at the farthest possible point from my parking spot. Of course it was. I would like to say that I navigated my journey perfectly. However, you may already be familiar with my sense of direction...or lack of it.
Attending session after session, and getting crowded out of a couple of them (why did they schedule such a small room), and hearing from speakers on a variety of aspects of this profession only made me more excited to actually teach. But that's not all. There is so much to do: research, curriculum design (a favorite of mine), possible travel, etc. As I told my advisor, "I want to do everything." Of course, she told me that might not be quite possible, but there will be many opportunities to try a variety of avenues with my degree.
Yes, an exciting thought, but an intimidating one as well. As I met other conference goers from all around the world, I realized that most of them have been teaching in this field for a number of years. I have only taken two classes so far. Am I going to really ever learn as much as I need to know? My familiar self-doubts came flooding back. I don't belong here, I don't belong in the MA program. I'm not as smart as I pretend to be. Someone is bound to figure this out.
Negative patterns of thinking and derogatory self-talk are difficult to break. They are too familiar. However, they can also be an excuse...an excuse to not try in the first place. So I push ahead.
And I realize that everyone there at that convention, all 8,000 or so, is a learner too. We are all at different stages in our journeys. I'm just a beginner, albeit an old beginner, but everyone starts from nowhere. I have to take a deep breath once in a while and tell myself to be quiet.
Convention: Part II
Throughout the convention, I never saw any of my professors (and I know they were in attendance). I only saw a few of my fellow students once, very early on the first day. I spent my time alone, going to sessions, taking a few breaks, visiting the poster sessions, etc. And listening in on conversations.
Sometimes, listening is the best part of a conversation; don't you agree? I was interested to hear just how many languages were spoken by the thousands of attendees. This was an international convention, and many of the educators are teaching English as a Foreign Language (known as EFL) in their home countries. This is quite amazing to me. Not only have they learned English as their second language, but they have learned it well enough to teach it to others.
Imagine, after your three or four years of high school Spanish or French, you continue to learn and you become proficient enough to actually speak the language. Better yet, you are able to teach the language to others.
There are a couple of international students in my class right now, learning to be better English teachers so they can go back to their home countries and do so professionally.
I have nothing but respect for anyone who can learn more than one language. Most Americans only know our own language, and often not even that well!