If I could split myself in two, I would.


Blog post

So here I am. Sat on the train to Manchester feeling alone. Perhaps, more alone than I have felt for a long time. I have just experienced something that I feel is going to be very hard to put into words, but an experience that I don’ t think I will ever forget. 
This blog post is about my IATEFL conference experience. If you’re expecting a breakdown of the sessions I went to and a summary of the conference content, I suggest you stop reading now.
This was my first ever IATEFL conference and I was also co presenting there, my second presentation in as many weeks. This was a huge event for me. Nervous, excited and not really knowing what to expect, I arrived in Glasgow unaware of what I was about to experience.
The first sign of what was to come happened on the Saturday night before the conference. I had the pleasure of meeting Chia Suan Chong, Mike Hogan, ceciELT and Bruno Andrade for drinks. I had never met any of these people and only knew Chia through twitter, yet from the beginning I felt instantly comfortable and at ease. I’ m usually not that good at meeting people. Shy and reluctant to open up through fear of simply not being that interesting I found myself opening up and warming to these relative strangers, who at the end of the week I would feel privileged to call friends. 
On Sunday I was exchanging texts with Jemma Gardner, again someone who I had never met, yet we had regularly read and commented on each others blogs for the last 6 months or so. On the Monday, after registering at the conference, we met face to face for the first time. We walked and talked, we drank coffee and talked, we searched Glasgow for a portable phone charger and talked. We met Willy Cardoso, who I had the pleasure of meeting the previous weekend in Bilbao, and we continued to talk.  The reason I mention the word talk so much is because I simply don’t do it a lot. If you ask my parents, my brother or any of my close friends they would say the same. I prefer to listen, I learn more that way. I always feel as though I don’t have the right to comment on things as I don’t have the experience or knowledge to do so. Yet, I felt a new sense of connection with the people I was meeting. I was talking freely and with confidence, creating or maybe discovering some sort of new identity.  
That same night, Gemma and I met with Willy, Luke Meddings, Lindsay Clanfield and Candy Van Olst. I had briefly met Luke at the TDSIG unplugged conference and swapped messages on Twitter. This might have been the ultimate opportunity to bend his ear about Dogme and other teaching matters. But instead, we talked about football, politics and father son relationships. It was an incredible experience. To sit down and open up like that with someone was a rarity for me and somewhat profound.
We moved on to the Karaoke night and I was introduced to more and more people who I followed through twitter. We talked and we joked. We were establishing a connection that would be maintained throughout the rest of the conference.  That same night I had the great pleasure of meeting Shelley Terrell for the very first time, who insisted on calling me Kevin for the entire night. I found out that I was the only person at the whole conference not following her on twitter. I discovered that she wrote beautiful poetry and worked nonstop around the world promoting the use of technology in teaching. I met Adam Simpson, Hakan “the man that can”, Hugo and many others that night. And , on returning home in the early hours, I knew that this was going to be something special.
The next day, all the people I had met went out of their way to stop and say hello, not out of politeness but because they were generally interested and wanted to maintain the connection from the previous night. This continued throughout the conference. You never really felt alone, there was always someone to talk to or meet for the first time and share ideas with.
The conference continued and we attended presentations on all sorts of areas. Taking notes, blogging and tweeting what was happening. As good as some of the presentations were, I couldn’t help but think that I was actually learning more from the dialogues I was having with the teachers in between the presentations and at the social functions, than from the sessions I was  going to. In his presentation, Willy Cardoso talked about the need for more feedback between teachers and (this was my personal take on it) he said that we only really learn about ourselves and the world around us from engaging in a dialogue with somebody else. This couldn’t be more true, and was exactly what I was experiencing at the conference. These thoughts were echoed by other teachers I met. Theteacherjames and I talked about this and many other issues and I regret not introducing myself earlier. From the short, but intense time we spent together I again felt a common connection. I was also lucky enough to spend time with Anthony Gaughn, who I think I could sit and listen to about a whole array of subjects, yet no matter what it was he would do it with the same equalled passion.  
I could go on and on about the people I met. If I haven’t mentioned you in this blog post it’s nothing personal, I just don’t think I would stop writing. 
My experience of the conference was an emotional one, sparked by the people I met and the dialogues we had. I felt as though I belonged. A feeling I have never really felt, despite Spending 6 years in the British Army where your life depends on that of the people you work with. For once I felt like I was on the inside, instead of on the edge looking in. I have left the conference with a feeling of inspiration, an inspiration to go on and be a better teacher and even a better person.
To all the people I met, thank you.
Kevin 😉

50 thoughts on “If I could split myself in two, I would.

  1. I truly felt myself along your journey here and filling with envy for the type of camaraderie you experienced at IATEFL. Though I’ve been in connection on Twitter, blogs and Skype for a few years with almost everyone you mentioned here, I am lacking that connection that comes from a face-to-face evening.


    • Hi Tyson,
      Thanks for commenting. I couldn’t recommend going to a conference enough. I went to two in two weeks and although vastly different in size I really felt a part of the proceedings and welcomed into the teaching world. Even if it’s just a group of teachers getting together for drinks a couple of times a month I would recommend doing it. As teachers I think that’s where we really learn and it doesn’t have to be at an official event. Over a pint in the local pub is just as good. Oh, and cheaper 😉

  2. Great post, I know exactly how you feel. I had a similar experience in Brighton after my first conference, and I don’t feel that different now. It’s all so intense that it takes on a meaning that is hard to get across in words, but despite that, you expressed it very well. Looking forward to the next time Kevin!

    • Hi James,
      Great meeting you at the event. Intense is definitely the word to sum it up. I really felt as though I had found the place I had been looking for, for such a long time. Already looking forward to the next one and perhaps some conferences inbetween.

  3. Hi Adam,
    It was great to meet you at the conference, and I loved reading such a personal account of your time there. I really enjoyed chatting to you, and reading this has given me tears in my eyes! (I’m pretty soppy!) It was a real emotional high all week, and the conversations I had during the week will stay with me for a long time, probably much longer than some of the sessions.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Hi Sandy,
      Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for commenting. Maybe next year they could do away with all the sesions and it could be one week long social event with free food and drink. Now, that would be a conference.
      Great meeting you and really enjoyed your session too.

  4. Brilliant. Don’t think any more needs to be said.

    Really glad to have met you and seen your session with Emily. Just hugely inspiring.

    Wish you all the best and hope it isn’t too long until the next time!

    Mike =)

  5. Adam, I totally feel you. Although I have met some of the PLN previously, this particular conference has definitely exceeded the others in terms of not just number of online friends I have made a face-to-face connection with, but more importantly, the friendships that I have truly felt took shape. It was a real pleasure meeting you, Adam, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
    PS: I’m blogrolling you!

    • I couldn’t agree more. My PLN rule and I am a lesser man without them. Fantastic meeting you and Mike on the Saturday night. For me it was a big confidence boast and helped me to go to the conference with a spring in my step. Hope to see you soon. Thanks for adding me to the blog roll.

  6. Hi Adam,
    Great post. If I blogged (maybe someday I’ll get around to it), I’d aspire to write posts like the one above. It was great to meet you too. And like you, I am also overwhelmed by the sense of togetherness and friendship experienced at IATEFL Glasgow. As James wrote above, I also felt the same after my first IATEFL last year, but more intensely this year. The thought-provoking dialogues we all had were playing on my mind on my way home, too. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with you and everyone else online until we meet again. And to echo Sandy’s words – thanks for sharing this!
    Mike [the irish one 🙂 ]

    • It was a pleasure sharing this post. I needed to be said and it just kind of poured out onto the keypad. Trying not to repeat myself in the replies, but it was great meeting you and I am looking forward to seeing all the photos you took. Hope your tooth and voice are better.

  7. Hi Adam,

    It was such a wonderful pleasure to get to meet you and spend so much time with you over the week. All that talking we did has left me full of thoughts and inspiration. You surprise me that you aren’t usually like that, because it seemed to come so naturally to you.

    As it was my first conference too, I can completely feel what you feel at the moment as I sit here preparing myself to go back to work. Being around all those people who are so committed to ELT and to each other at the same time is the type of camaraderie a DOS could only dream of having in a staffroom, (however good my school now might be). I saw something from Jeremy Harmer about it being his “professional family”, that rings quite true for me.

    The thing I found amazing was how quickly these bonds appeared. By Tuesday, I felt I’d known you for years, and that goes for many of the others who I spent time with at the conference too.

    Perhaps there was something in the water..? Or maybe everyone really just is that amazing.
    I know which I prefer.

    Hope to see you before next year’s IATEFL, Adam.

    Have a good day today,
    Jem 🙂

    • I could write another blog post just about the time we spent together. Thanks for putting up with me.
      I don’t think I would have had quite the same conference experience if I hadn’t met you on the Monday. Really great hanging out with you and getting to the know the person behind the great blog that is unplugged reflections. Hope to see you very soon and one day work together.

      • There was certainly no “putting up with”! You were such a huge, important and fantastic part of my conference experience. The talks we had, the laughs we had, the friendship we formed really helped me to stay grounded over a week of what could have been total madness. Ok, it was total madness, but without having you to hang out with either over coffee during the day between talks or at night when sampling the delights of Glasgow’s nightlife, my week wouldn’t have been as good as it was.

        So, thank you!

        Been considering a French/Spanish cycle trip sometime in the year, so I might see you on my way?!


  8. To be honest, Adam, you’ve summed up exactly how I feel in your post, so maybe I don’t need to write one myself!

    This was a very special occasion and I was glad to meet so many old friends for the first time.

      • Cheers. There was little left to say, but I managed something.

        A real pleasure to meet you, too. As I told you at the conference, keep on with this because you’re doing something very important for the profession.

  9. This post is just amazing Adam, the way you managed to put into such heartfelt words the uniqueness of the IATEFL 2012 experience, especially in terms of the bonds that were established by such an amazing group of people. It was a wonderful week and It was incredibly great to meet you!
    All the best


    • Thanks Alex.
      Really enjoyed our run down by the river on the Thursday morning before the session. Nice to have some good company and someone to help me take my mind off of it all. Hope everything works out for you and fingers crossed, get to see you in London soon.

  10. Enjoyed reading this, Adam, and enjoyed meeting you again. Also glad you spent your blog-time talking about what really matters at a conference – the people you meet. The sessions were interesting but it’s the people that I take away with me. Great piece of work here. Thanks.

    • As always, great to get a reply from you Anthony. I enjoyed our little chats together and look forward to many more at future conferences. Thanks again for the contribution to the session. Good luck with the running.

  11. Hi Adam,
    I also felt a lot of personal resonance in your post and just wish I had the opportunity to experience IATEFL in the way you and many of your commenters have. You’ve just made me even more determined to bridge the miles and disregard the inconvenience of the time of year to get there one day soon.
    And can’t wait to enjoy your and Emily’s session Live Online very soon – will be in touch this week, I promise!

    • Thanks Neil.
      I think IATEFL will be a fixed event in my calendar from now on. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Looking forward to presenting live on line with IH.

  12. Kevin :-),

    I didn’t know what I was going to experience when I walked into your presentation. I went to support you, a new member of my PLN presenting. However, your presentation inspired me and gave me hope. I have never experienced such a project that has so much substance and the ingredients of what makes teaching such an incredible experience.Your blog, the student diaries, the support from your DOS, and the reflection of your practice and the way that you chose to be taught in this manner as well gave me hope for education. One of my favorite parts was Anthony’s interview saying how audacious this project and you are. Perhaps there are more new teachers like you out there who are audacious and I just haven’t run into them? I hope so because although I do believe you are unique and a great teacher like my partner in the session told me, it would be quite sad if there weren’t many more teachers like you. It makes me hope that a system of teacher training hasn’t made new teachers lose their audacity and I hope there are tons of teachers in the world like you and many others in my PLN who care enough and have the sole desire that their students have an incredible learning experience. And I hope there are many DOS out there like Emily, who was unbelievable in her support. I hope your project and your message of educators having mini revolutions becomes viral. I hope great teaching and audacity become viral. So thank you for writing this reflection and thank you for being audacious.

    • Wow. How do you respond to a comment like this? Firstly, thanks for your continued support. Not just at the conference, but afterwards and for including Emily and I in your plenary talk in France. Secondly, I’m not sure about the audacious thing, but my
      PLN certainly are and you are at the top of that list. If, one day I can attain the standard of daily inspiration and hard work you encourage through your various web sites and constant tweeting then maybe, just maybe, I will feel comfortable with the audacious tag.


  13. Hi Adam,

    It really was wonderful to meet you and spend fleeting moments with you at IATEFL. I really loved your post, and you were right on the spot. When I was reading your post I was amazed at how you could put into words so perfectly the feeling of attending an IATEFL after forming your PLN. Brighton for me was exactly what you described… the wonder, not being alone… just really, plainly connecting with people and with a few of them, on a much deeper level than you would ever expect. I made some of my very best friends through twitter (and later meeting them face to face). There’s something about meeting such like-minded people that is just unique. People who think like you, who care about the same things you do, who like the same things… It’s just strange but incredibly nice. Not to mention the talks!

    Loved your post. Hope to see you again soon.


    • I don’t think there is anything else to say. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and were able to relate to it. I’m so happy that so many other people felt the same way and it was a pleasure to share my experiences. Putting it into words just seemed to come naturally, I didn’t really need to think about it, just type.
      Thank you for commenting and I hope to see you again soon.

  14. Kevin, Kevin…oops, I mean Adam, Adam! This had been the only post, dare I say it, on IATEFL that I’ve read in all its entirety. Just like Sandy, I’m soppy, too, and like you, I’m more of a listener as well… and I’m just so glad to hear it’s turned out so beautiful for you. We do have the most wonderful PLN – don’t you just feel sorry for those who “don’t have the time” for PD? I’ve never met anyone face-to-face yet, but if and when I do, I hope it’ll be as wonderful as you have described. I must admit that, however, after doing these iasku interviews, I feel as if I knew some of these people for some time already… 🙂

    • To comment on your last sentence. That’s why you must carry on with iasku. It’s such a great idea and really allows the people who can’t make the conferences to connect with people and teachers that they otherwise would never meet.
      And your right, we do have the most amazing PLN and I hope to meet all of them one day, especially yourself.

  15. Nice on Kevin/Adam,

    I’m out in the wilderness so to speak so only get to catch things online but never understand how the conferences actually feel and why people talk about them so much. Well, until now. I hope you present at many more and also online so we can all enjoy your talks.

    • Cheers Phil.
      Thank you for contributing to the talk and supporting it with all your tweets. Huge fan of your blog and I think both the unplugged document you created and the current inspiring blog idea are great. It’s an honour to be a part of them.

  16. Adam,

    Congratulations on another successful conference! Sounds like you had a wonderful time and met a lot of really lovely people. I was actually hoping you could recommend some names of people whose blogs you follow? Thanks, Christen

    • Hi Christen,
      I would recommend anyone one on my blog roll, which you can find on the home page. Hoping to up date it this weekend so there will be more to choose from. Is there anything in particular you would like to read about?

      • Right. Still new to this whole blog, twitter, connect the accounts thing. I have reactivated my facebook account, signed up for twitter and have promised myself to start a blog this week. I am attempting to ‘reconnect’ without over-sharing. Interested in speaking activities, anything that gets the kids talking. Working with a really low level so sometimes it’s hard to find that perfect activity.

  17. Hey Adam,
    Beautiful post! Congratulations on the conference and your talk. I’d love to watch it after reading Shelly’s words.
    I couldn’t agree more with you about PLN, virtual & face-to-face meetings and how much one can benefit from random talks. I’ll definitely share your post with colleagues and trainee teachers who haven’t yet experienced the beauty of building up a PLN and attending conferences like the IATEFL. It’s your very personal account, but surely one that must be shared. Thank you!
    -Eduardo (@eltbakery)

    • Your welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and it would be great if you shared it with colleagues and especially trainee teachers. They are the ones that should be going to the conferences, asking the questions and debating the future of ELT.

  18. Goodness, I am floored!
    What you say really resonates with the experience of so many of us – I have had the tremendous chance to met many of these wonderful teachers – and you have found the words.
    I have to use the A word 😉
    Concerning the lectures which you didn’t tell us about – any chance of you dropping in to the webheads room this Sunday 1st April, 14hGMT (not British Summer Time!) where some of us who were NOT able to go to Glasgow are hoping to hear about it? here’s the link http://tinyurl.com/y3eh (although you have to log in to Learning Times on the way there – and then wait for the Elluminate room to download after you click “Enter now”)

  19. OH Adam.

    Reading this has almost made me sad that I couldn’t make IATEFL this year because this is exactly how I feel when I go to a conference, and missing an opportunity to meet up with the friends I’ve made in the last year is no fun at all.

    Like Shelly says above, I’m very, very impressed with all the energy you pour into this blog, into your professional development and of course to your student’s learning process. Wish I could follow it as much as I did a few months back, but life has suddenly got busy (another reason I couldn’t make IATEFL). Either way, I’m rooting you on quite loudly from the sidelines.

    Rock on, bud!


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  21. I had goosebumps reading this post, and I wasn’t even at IATEFL this year. But, the first few paragraphs describe my experience in Brighton last year almost perfectly. I traveled from Canada to the UK for the first time last year. I had my first pint alone in a pub, and figured that was probably how most of the trip would go. I was so wrong. I made lifelong friends at that conference, and working in this industry has changed forever because of it. I just returned from the TESOL conference in Philly, and I only wish I could say that it was a similar experience. It was a great trip, but it was in a different league. I honestly believe that the lack of twitter users at TESOL made the big difference. On my last night we did have a mini tweet up and it was great, but I missed my PLN even more because of it. You wrote so beautifully, Adam. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  23. Pingback: IATEFL Glasgow 2012: the emotional post « Sandy Millin

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