I would like to highlight some great moments that I had in the 50th IATEFL conference in Birmingham. First of all, I would like to share with you my adventure to get there.
And the story goes… I left Rio de Janeiro, in the hottest autumn day and heading to Spain (like Elton John’s song – Daniel). I met a young girl who turned my friend during the flight, we were at the same connection to London. During our long chat, she asked me why I was traveling to UK and I told her that I was going to an International Conference for Teachers of English and she got surprised like many other people do. Yeah, we have conferences spread all over the world. I can assure you that every conference has a singular atmosphere. Its essence to connect teachers to discuss, share and learn from different contexts and backgrounds makes a unique experience for all teachers.
So, my “adventure” started in a beautiful cold afternoon, when the pilot told us that we were approaching to LONDON. I was very excited to meet old and new friends that I have been interacting for some years. Friends that become my soulmates such as Roseli, Teresa, Marjorie, Joe and Sergio ( Virginia, Vicky and Burcu couldn’t join us this time, it was a pity).
Anyway, I thought it was complicated to get to Euston Station. In fact, this was a piece of cake comparing to what was waiting for me. I had a really hard time with my luggage. It traveled around Spain and, British Airways gave me as an excuse with “compliments” – one night kit specially made for MAN!
Oh boy, I tried really hard arguing along other passengers who had the same problem – our luggages were supposed to be at the airport, not somewhere over the rainbow in MADRID.
To my surprise, I was the only one who was traveling to BIRMINGHAM so that, my luggage travelled more than me. After 2 days since left Rio, finally my luggage checked in at the hotel while I was attending the conference. It was the best day of my life! No, it was not! Not a happy flight at all!
After all, I got safe and sound in Birmingham and the ICC really impressed me. What a beautiful venue! Every thing was handy, easy to use and comfortable. Coffee shop and some music. Great!
To tell the truth, there were many good talks and keynotes that I would like to able to see. Unfornately, I have to choose some of them and my intention was to participate at the Forum on special educational needs – creating positive inclusive learning opportunities with three great educators who did wonderful presentations as you can catch up with the recording in the link above. They discussed and argued the necessity to provide teachers resources, teaching development, materials and support for many teachers who are facing challenges and demands for Special Educational needs in their classrooms.
Needless to say it was a perfect time to propose a new SIG for this area. Whether approved the new SIG called Inclusive Practices and SEN (Special Educational Needs) will be the voice of thousands of teachers who need support with adapted materials, universal learning design, inclusive policies and enviromnent, research to develop teaching practices and so on. This SIG is crucial to our students and to us – Teachers.
Another great moment it was during the Interactive Language Fair where 10 presentations were happening at the same time. One of these presentations, I asked some questions related to inclusive education. Even though the Interative Language Fair was not about SEN, I was curious to know, whether on their contexts, they had faced or come across with students with neurodiversities (According to Silberman the notion that conditions like autism, dyslexia and attention-deficit/ hyperativitydisorder (ADHD) should be regard as naturally cognitive variations with distinctive strenght that have contributed to the evolution of technology and culture rather than mere checklist of deficits and dysfunctions).
Therefore, a teachers from Turkey surprised me during her presentation. She told me that in her school, the kids with some learning difficulties, they have a teacher that help them out during the activities and engage them with the whole classroom; And that was the moment that I learned a new nomenclature for Mediation as Shelter Teachers (the idea of “Shelter” is to protect the children, giving them a safety learning enviromnent) and it was just amazing, being there and know from others – strategies, how they mix methodologies and adapting approaches that can really make the difference when it comes to inclusion. It is true that we have some difficulties to put into practice, some inclusive policies in our educational system. I reckon it is not necessary create new ones, what we have to do is – raise acceptance and accessibility for an education in which understand what is the real meaning of diversity (thinking and learning). In other words, We need Teachers who are able to UNDERSTAND this issue in our schools, Institutions and Universities. Not only accept or be aware of, but understand that we are different and our students with neurodiversity are not more or less than anyone else. That is what we have to struggle for – an inclusive society.
Finally, I have to confess that I had a great time at Iatefl. I met face-to-face many people who had the opportunity to attend some talks I have done on-line. I could feel once again, how powerful is the connection within my PLNs – that is the best part in conferences. The moment that we express our friendship beyond the computers and smartphones with hugs and endless talks to each other. Having fun and plan our next time together and make new friends as well. That’s priceless.
I know that I took almost one month to talk about the conference due by my frenetic agenda but I got home full of ideas and I will prepare myself for my 1st presentation in Glasglow to talk more about Inclusive Education. So, let’s hope for the best…
SILBERMAN.S -The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity – USA- 2015