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Affiliate News: February 2010

Affiliate News (February 2009) Conference Reports & Articles: A Report From Aotearoa, New Zealand

by User Not Found | 11/11/2011

A Report From Aotearoa, New Zealand

Pat Syme, , for TESOLANZ,

Our TESOL conference is probably a little different from other TESOL conferences in that we include teachers of community languages. That’s what CLESOL means: Community Languages and English for Speakers of Other Languages. One of the three conference days has a community languages focus. Our community languages include the indigenous language, Maori (which is also our official language alongside English and NZ Sign); many Pacific Island languages, such as Samoan, Tongan, and Cook Island Maori; and other languages spoken by a number of immigrants such as Greek, Russian, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean.

We have a conference every second year. We rotate the host city so that the cost of attending can be spread more equally and to give other teacher groups the experience of organizing a conference.

This year, Auckland was the host city. The venue was a private, boys’ secondary school which provided accommodations as well as classrooms, a hall, and a lecture theater for the presentations. The time of year was spring—the beginning of October—and the weather was sunny and warm. Conference-goers—and there were about 500 of them—often took their lunch onto the lawn or under trees.

Each day, we had three plenary speakers, most of whom were overseas luminaries. We were very fortunate indeed to hear from Bonny Norton, Simon Borg, Rosemary Senior, Mike McCarthy, and Jeremy Harmer, as well as two Maori women, Cath Rau and Robyn Hata; a Samoan woman, Melanie Anae; and our own luminary Paul Nation. Many were entertaining; all were inspiring.

Between the plenaries, there was a wealth of workshops and presentations to attend, usually 14 simultaneously, creating dilemmas of choice. As well as 30-minute workshops, there were one-hour roundtable discussions on e-learning, literacy, language in the workplace, language and identity, and interactive classroom activities. An interesting feature of the workshops was not only the range of topics but also the range of sectors represented from preschool through to tertiary.

Dancing at the conference dinner

Perhaps the highlight of the conference was the dinner. Because so many Pacific Islanders live in Auckland and close to the venue, a Cook Island Maori group was hired to prepare the food and provide entertainment. Soon everyone was dancing. It proved to be a memorable evening.

Why do we go to conferences? To meet old colleagues, to make new friends, to recharge the batteries, and to get new ideas. Many of us went back to our classes keen to implement the great new strategies we had learned.