As teacher of the year, I’ve had the good fortune to connect with educators from across the world, share my practice, and broaden my horizons as a teacher. In my last blog as teacher of the year, I’d like to share my experience at the 2015 SPELT (Society for Pakistani English Language Teachers) Conference in Pakistan where I was invited to present on approaches to nurture global citizenship and equity in English language teaching.
SPELT is like no other conference in the world. If participants can’t go to the conference, the conference comes to them. For 31 years, renowned educator, social activist, and beloved founder of SPELT, Zakia Sarwar with her dedicated team of volunteers (SPELTERS) have brought professional development to thousands of ELT educators across Pakistan. The team, along with a panel of international speakers, travel across the country—beginning at the tip of the Arabian Sea in Karachi to historic and lusciously green Lahore to the capital Islamabad at the foothills of the Himalayas.
One cannot help but feel the excitement of seasoned and novice teachers at the SPELT conference. The topics, issues, and presentations at SPELT are current and very much in line with hot topics presented at the annual TESOL convention. The conference theme was “ELT Traditions and Innovations,” and Pakistani teachers are pushing ELT forward. Keynote speaker, Lou McLaughlin from IATEFL, United Kingdom, presented her research on, “Teacher Cognition in Language Teaching: The Journey So Far and Our Next Steps.” Her talk set the right tone for the conference—to bring teacher cognitions to light to better understand the root of what teachers know, believe, and think. The tensions between teacher cognition and practice affect teaching and learning; therefore, developing an awareness of these tensions can facilitate professional development.
Mick King from Middlesex University, Dubai, spoke of the role of PBL in ELT. Farah Kamar, the Executive Director from the Society for International Education, focused on understanding and adapting ELT instruction to suit millennials by encouraging them to use their voices in digital narratives. Saima Haq, the founder of Special Children’s Educational Institute in Karachi brought special needs students to the forefront of ELT.
A heartfelt moment was shared by all with a tribute to the lifelong work of Ruqaiya Hasan, a life-long friend, sister, mentor, and member of SPELT, who passed on in June of this year. Ahmar Mahmood (University of Sydney) spoke to her work on literacy education and educational practices that lead to student empowerment.
ELT is a vehicle for change in Pakistan. Education is the key to the evolution of society, the empowerment of women, and fighting poverty. I had the privilege and the honour to be welcomed by such dedicated ELT professionals in Pakistan. I spent 10 days travelling, sharing, discussing, laughing, and taking a million selfies with teachers and teacher educators from many corners of the country. Pakistanis are warm, extremely generous, and hospitable people who appreciate life, family, good friends, good food, and a good laugh.
As I bid farewell as teacher of the year, I want to thank TESOL for this recognition, but mostly this opportunity to grow as an educator and share one final message. English language teachers have a great role in this changing world to help broaden perspectives, celebrate diversity, and foster community with respect through dialogue and empathy. My experience blogging, sharing my practice, and reaching out to other educators has provided me an opportunity to embody what I teach—to be a global citizen in a global community. And for that, I am forever grateful.