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Friday, March 21, 2014

Dubai trip 3: the conference

The entire reason for my trip to Dubai was to attend the TESOL Arabia conference. I had never been on a business trip before and was very excited, ready to learn a lot. The Conference had many speakers that are celebrities in the TEFL world, including Scott Thornbury and Carol Read! It’s a large, annual conference, in its 20th year or so, with hundreds of attendees. There were people from all over the Middle East and North Africa, as well as quite a few from Eastern Europe and even some from Asia. They ranged from university teachers to teacher trainers to language-center teachers (like me) to “normal” classroom teachers in primary and secondary schools. The mix was enriching, even if it meant that some of the things discussed would naturally not be applicable to everyone’s job or experience. 

The lobby of Dubai's Hyatt Regency,
where the conference was held.

We arrived on Thursday morning around 9 am to complete chaos, as is probably often the case at the openings of conferences. Our MENA team leader, Jim O'Neill, somehow managed to get us all through registry to collect our name tags and goody bags and corral the 13 of us together for a team meeting. Most of us had never met before, as there was only one participant from each teaching center (apart from mine, which was able to send both me and a colleague), so it was nice to have some time before the conference started at 11 to chat a bit and start getting to know who was who.

One general meeting-point where we all spent a fair bit of time was the impressive British Council stand that was set up. We all got all sorts of goodies from them, from resource books to “egg timers” to notebooks to BC polo shirts! (I gave mine to Othman, hehee.) We all joked that this stand was more impressive than the entirety of our centers. Whether or not that was completely true, it definitely was striking, as well as a good meeting place!

Resources and screens galore.
Our BC sure doesn't look like that!

Both days I attended the conference were jam-packed full of interesting tips for teaching, talks on theories and different methodologies, and very interesting people! Not only did I get to know a colleague from Rabat who I had met on occasion better, but I also met two lovely Americans, one who works in Saudi Arabia and another who works in Palestine, and really enjoyed getting to know them too.  We laughed about having to teach British English and swapped ideas on how to make the difference of our American speech less confusing for our students. We compared our childhoods in the States and talked about how we got to where we are now, and what we hope for the future in our careers. We compared how our respective British Council centers work and commiserated over bad management, lack of supplies and uninspiring coursebooks. We attended sessions together, some great and others not so much, and filled the others in when there was a good one we attended alone. We sat outside together for lunch, escaping the incessant cold that comes with being indoors in Dubai.

The aforementioned "egg timer". They were a hit with all of us and we 
all made sure to get one! There are actually three in the same 
structure, the two other sides being 3 minutes and 7 minutes.

Most of the sessions I attended were really interesting, though there were a few duds, more so the second day than the first. Some highlights were Carol Read’s talk on how to encourage creativity in the classroom which was full of practical tips, a session on giving device-neutral assignments so that students can use technology as far as they see fit, and my dear friend Anna’s talk on giving effective feedback and why sometimes our students don’t seem to accept that feedback. I’m supposed to do some cascading of what I learned to my center, and I’ll likely be taking ideas from those three sessions to share with my colleagues. 

Anna setting up for her very interesting talk!

I really enjoyed the entire experience and hope to be able to repeat it in the future! My first business conference was an undoubted success, and I’m very grateful that the BC funded it! Another reason to love working there. =]


  1. I wish you blogged everyday! Dad and I are loving to have our morning coffees while reading and commenting on your blogs on our respective iPads!

  2. Lovely read again my dear. Could have posed for that pic as I look hilarious! Glad you enjoyed the conference and it was so niiicceeeee to see you!!

    1. I thought you looked very intent, while being all smiley, as per the usual! But yea I should have had you pose and take a nice official looking one, oops! Next time. ;D