Learning and Growing; Conference Reflections.

Like many active language educators, I find that I attend, present, give talks and workshops in conferences that target our area of expertise multiple times in the academic year. And as such, I have come to learn that each conference is but an opportunity to learn from and engage with fellow language educators. I have recently been trying to focus on my colleagues’ representational skills and strategies in order to learn from them and sharpen my own. I have also found that writing reflections after the fact helps put everything is perspective. This short article is one such attempt.

1: Make it sweet!

The famous Arabic saying says: ختامها مِسك Khitanuha misk, which translates to: we ended on the sweet smell of Musk. The 2020 Winter Conference of the New York Arabic Teachers’ Council did better as both first and last presenters engaged the attendees with the sweetness of a topic that is near and dear to every active and motivated educator; and that is importance and effectiveness of student centeredness. Starting with and ending on a sweet note is a great presentation strategy that I found to be very effective and shall from now own attempt to use it as I myself present and give workshops.

2: Always give options.

The first presenter, Rebecca Aubrey is the 2019 ACTFL World Language Teacher of the Year. She spent the first hour and fifteen minutes exploring with the participants ways to ensure that instructional practices meet the needs of diverse learners. Practicing what she preaches, she walked the participants through steps of backward planning with the main aim of identifying different strategies that meet the needs of diverse learners. She set up several stations that explore the topic of backward planning so participants can select what they decided was suitable for their needs as well as level of knowledge about the topic. Note to self: presentational strategy #2; workshop participants, like students in your class, love to have a choice in the matter and a say in it! Make sure to include that in your next presentation.

Rebecca Aubrey; Backward Planning to meet students’ needs

Souad Malih shard with the participants “Cultural Portfolios” which she asked her students to complete. In her presentation, like Rebecca, Souad too stressed the importance of having the students themselves be the ones who make the choice of what to include in their portfolio to help them explore and understand the multiple layers of cultural context.  I’m writing this down; make options available.

Souad Malih; Cultural Portfolios

3: Remote collaborations!

Biebers Ishak and I were happy receive the council’s invitation to collaborate for the first time to present on the topic of teaching grammar in a manner that engages every learner (Read Presentation abstract here). We had both worked together in the Leadership Initiative that the Council makes available to its members (learn more about it here). Keeping the lessons Real, Relatable and Relevant, we told participants, was the best way to ensure that all learners were engages. Additionally, we were able to share with the participants much needed resources and examples specific to teaching Arabic that would help them design their lessons. This was my third co-presentation ever and my first that I had to work on remotely. I can now put to rest the myth that says remote collaboration does not work! It actually does work! From now on, I shall not hesitate as much when faced with remote collaboration.

Collaborative Presentation; Teaching Grammar. Engaging the Learners

4: Practice what you Preach!

Although this was my first collaborative presentation in this conference, it was by no means my first presentation with Council. Having a long history with the Council, it was imperative for me to be able to include free copies of my book as one of these resources that I wanted to share with the attendees. This was the final event of the conference. I know I did not necessarily consciously plan it that way, but maybe I too managed to close on the sweet smell of Musk!

Book Signing; Reading Series: with Reading We Progress بالقراءة نتقدم. Final Event of the Day.

5: A word of thanks!

Many thanks to Georges Chahwan, Susan Hanna-Wicht and Stephanie Skitko for all their efforts in organizing the conference and the book signing. It is such events that help us grow and learn.

With Biebers Ishak and Susan Hanna-Wicht