This year, IFLT was held in Denver. I had an absolutely great time, but gosh, I could not get over how dry it was in Denver compared to humid Atlanta (I kept losing my voice due to the dry weather, so drinking LOTS of water was definitely a necessity), in addition to being out of breath slightly for the first few days on account of the altitude.
This was my second time attending an IFLT conference (see here about my first time at IFLT last summer). That definitely helped, because I knew the "routine," and I knew how to pace myself better. A major concern of mine was that since I was taking the 4-day Fluency Fast Mandarin class immediately before, I would already be tired and burned out by the time IFLT began. Far from it! Both Fluency Fast and IFLT were two completely different experiences (and I absolutely loved both of them), and in fact, the high which I was experiencing from Fluency Fast carried over to IFLT.
Here are just a few of my many highlights from this summer's IFLT:
- Senor Wooly's opening address - Granted I am not a Spanish teacher, but I am aware of who Senor Wooly (Jim Wooldridge) is and of all of his resources (music videos, graphic novels, etc). At the same time, I never grasped why for most Spanish teachers, meeting him was like meeting Elvis. After hearing his opening address at IFLT, I now count myself in that group. In his opening talk, entitled "Embracing Inauthenticity," he addressed the following - I have been looking and asking everywhere if someone has a video of Senor Wooly's talk, because it was so incredible. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate one:
- Authentic language is not solely reserved for native speakers.
- Non-native speakers can be effective language teachers.
- When true communication (comprehension of what is said) in a language occurs, regardless of errors, it is real and authentic language.
- As a result, the language which our students produce is real and authentic.
- Authenticity is about stepping the language outside of one's comfort zone to communicate.
- We need to tell our students that they have a right to speak the language.
- Lab observations - Although I enjoy the many presentations at IFLT, I absolutely love the lab observations and getting the chance to see master CI teachers actually teaching students in a classroom setting. I can honestly say that the lab observations are where the true magic happens at IFLT, because folks can witness CI in action. To me, this is the major difference between IFLT and NTPRS.
- Annabelle Allen - There was absolutely NO way that I was NOT going to observe Annabelle teach elementary school Spanish, because observing her last summer at IFLT made such an profound impact on me. If you have ever seen her in action, then you know what I am talking about! Annabelle's high-level energy is absolutely contagious - heck, I want to be one of her students. This year, I observed Annabelle twice, because that is how much I wanted to see her teach. I also knew that I needed to get there EARLY if I wanted a seat, because her observations fill up very quickly. There is so much that I could say about Annabelle, and believe me, even though I do not teach elementary-aged students, I learn so much from her every time I observe her (both in Spanish and as a CI teacher) - it is difficult for me to pinpoint just one thing. What I love most about Annabelle is her absolute love for students and how much they love her in return. I remember last year being brought to tears as I saw her students RUN to see her, and this year, I witnessed that same love in her students. I love how Annabelle is able to correct a student behavior-wise in such a way that it makes that student feel like he/she is still part of the community. I was incredibly touched in seeing her deal with a particular young boy who was experiencing a meltdown at the end of the day.
- Linda Li - I have to admit that I had rather selfish reasons for observing Linda: after 4-days of learning Mandarin from her in a Fluency Fast class, I wanted more! Before the lab observation began, I was sitting in the back of the room with the other observers, but Linda asked me if I wanted to sit up front with her students - I think that she sensed that I wanted to learn more Mandarin. I certainly obliged (but sat in the row behind the students so as not to freak them out) and even though I was there as an observer, I was also a silent participant in the class. I was an active listener, gestured with the class whenever Linda said particular words, and answered her questions in Mandarin under my breath. Even though Linda was teaching many of the same high-frequency vocabulary as she had in our Fluency Fast class, it did not matter to me: all I wanted was to hear more Mandarin, to interact with it, and to get more INPUT! Linda is a master at teaching Mandarin without it feeling one is actually learning, because it is all happening subconsciously. Honestly, this is how learning is supposed to happen!
- Mafia presentation - I gave two presentations on how to play Mafia in a CI Classroom, and I was absolutely floored by the number of folks who attended each time! What I enjoyed most was being able to demonstrate the game in Latin. I venture to say that most who attended had never experienced Latin as a spoken language, so it was rather cool to expose fellow world language teachers to comprehensible spoken Latin and to show them that it is indeed a true communicative language. Annabelle Allen wrote up a blog post about the session - I wish I could tell you how special I feel!
Next year's IFLT will be in Cincinnati from July 17-20. Hope to see you there so that you can experience everything which I mentioned here!