Jeni Evana Sultana, an English Assistant Teacher at Government Laboratory High School in Mymensingh, was a participant at the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) Conference 2019. We interviewed her about her experiences and takeaways at the conference.
BC: How did you get the opportunity to join IATEFL Conference 2019? Please tell us briefly about your experience.
Jeni: I first heard about the IATEFL Conference in 2015 from one of my colleagues who attended the conference in 2014. Since then, I was always in search of such an opportunity. As a member of BELTA Mymensingh Chapter, in mid-October 2018 I received an email from BELTA admin and came to know that, in honour of International Teachers’ Day, the British Council, Bangladesh has announced a Scholarship Competition for teachers’ from Bangladesh to attend the IATEFL Conference, which is to be held in the UK in April 2019. I was excited to have met all the criteria and instantly decided to apply. After a month, I received another email from Amy Lightfoot in Sri Lanka who informed that I had been short-listed for the next stage of the competition that included a short Skype interview. I was overcome with joy! After a nerve-wracking interview in December, I was finally selected as one of the winners of the IATEFL Scholarship Competition.
BC: What are the key features of the conference that you found most fascinating?
The IATEFL Conference-2019 was designed with learning, networking and knowledge sharing sessions. I felt privileged to hear from experts on ELT from different parts of the world. Attending such a conference along with such a vast number of ELT professionals was a lifetime experience. The diversity of the participants added an extra charm to it. Another fascinating experience was the welcome speech of Mr Harry Kuchah Kuchah, President, IATEFL where he shared the uniqueness of IATEFL Conference and how it is an opportunity to step out from our daily routine to roam around a wider circle of the ELT industry.
BC: How many sessions have you attended? How useful were those sessions?
Jeni: During the conference, the participants could join several of any ongoing sessions as per their interest. The conference consisted of more than 500 sessions covering 20 to 30 meetings a day arranged simultaneously in different rooms. I attended around 16 sessions, which were generally about 20 to 30 minutes each, but there were also some panel discussions that were longer than regular sessions. I found these sessions very interesting and inspirational.
BC: What will you change in your teaching-learning approach after having attended this conference?
Jeni: The conference emphasised on the fact that inclusivity does not refer to the presence of students in class only. Their interests should be matched as well. How they prefer to learn, their preferences, their strength and area of improvement, all these things should be taken care of. I want to cascade these learnings in my classroom. I believe that with this experience, I can create an inclusive environment for my students, even outside the classroom. I also realised that we should not stick with one lesson plan for years. We need to include technology for support and use digital platforms as well as need to be more dynamic. In the conference, I saw a video where an African teacher successfully managed a large number of students in her class. Following these strategies, I believe I can upgrade myself over time and introduce an environment where my students will be able to learn English more effectively.
BC: Do you think this experience of joining the conference will help you in developing your teaching career?
Jeni: Through this conference, I have created a network where I can share my experiences with other delegates at the conference. I am actively reading their blogs to learn from their experiences as well. As I also work as a teacher-trainer, this session will help me to design workshops and seminars. I feel more enthusiast in attending MOOC tests and other related courses for my continuous professional development.