The TESOL President’s Blog
The word “nice” has not only fallen into disuse over the years, but it can now produce some strong negative feelings, such as those expressed by Natalie Sisson, in her 2011 piece on “Why Nice Should Be Banished From the English Language.” Douglas Harper explains that Henry Fowler (1858–1933), the famous lexicographer, claimed that “nice” had, by the 1920s, been “charmed out of all its individuality and converted into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness” (Online Etymology Dictionary). And as another Henry said, in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1803), while making fun of the word: “Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything.”
So, it came as a nice surprise to learn that NYS, the abbreviated form of New York State, is pronounced “nice.” That was one of the many things I learned during the 45th NYS TESOL Conference, on “Emerging Global Literacies in Language and Technology”, which took place on 13–14 November in White Plains, New York. The conference was attended by around 500 participants, with well over 100 presentations, and approximately 150 presenters. Although the NYS TESOL conference is a state level event, there were participants from a number of other countries, including Argentina, Brazil, China, and Japan, and from a number of other states and districts as well, including California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.
In an interview with incoming NYS TESOL President Sarah Elia (2015–2016) and NYS TESOL Past President Susanne Marcus (2012–2014), which will appear in the NYS TESOL quarterly publication, Idiom, I reiterated a point I’ve made in some of my previous TESOL President Blogs, which is the Association’s commitment to supporting all of its affiliates, and to strengthening the ties with our affiliates. In this way, I believe, we can go beyond quantity, in terms of the number of affiliates, to quality, in terms of the depth of our relationships with our affiliates.
NYS TESOL is one the largest and most active affiliates of TESOL International Association, both within and outside of the Untied States, with around 1,500 members of NYS TESOL, nearly half of whom, 700 or so, are also members of TESOL International. And, as the “45th” indicates, they started holding their annual conference just a few years after TESOL International started to hold its annual convention.
At NYS TESOL 2015 there were four plenaries, starting with a presentation by Professor James Paul Gee, from Arizona State University, who gave a thought-provoking and engaging talk on “Language, Literacy, Technology, Teaching, and Learning in a (Crisis-Ridden) Digital World.” (Of course, given the year of global conflict we’ve seen, “crisis-ridden” could well have been highlighted, rather than parenthetical.) Also at the conference, student essay contest winners were invited to read their essays, after which they were presented with certificates in recognition of their winning essays. Awards were also presented for Outstanding Teacher (Scott Freiberger), Lifetime Achievement (Vernon Todd), and Outstanding Professional (Stella Lawrence).
In addition to two workshops, one on the use of film in the language classroom, and one on teacher professional development online, I also gave a plenary presentation. During my plenary, one piece of TESOL association trivia that I shared with the NYS TESOL 2015 audience, which was not known by many of them, was the fact that, although the first official TESOL International Convention took place in Miami Beach, Florida, USA in April 1967, something extremely important happened, in New York, the year before. At the third annual national conference on TESOL, the constitution was proposed for what would become the TESOL International Association. That meeting took place in March, 1966, at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in New York City. The first TESOL International convention in New York was the association’s tenth, in 1967. The association has come back to New York City (NYC) many times since then, with the 19th annual convention in 1985, the 25th in 1991, the 33rd in 1999, and the 42nd in 2008—all in NYC.
We keep coming back, and after NYS TESOL 2015, I understood why, as I, too, now plan to keep coming back. In fact, I was so impressed with the passionate professionalism of the language educators I met at NYS TESOL 2015, that shortly before their Executive Board meeting, which I was invited to attended, I went online and joined, so I could attend their meeting as a new member, and so I can continue to support their work, beyond the conference, throughout the year. Thanks again, and congratulations again, to everyone at NYS TESOL on such a successful annual conference. Nicely/”NYS-ly” done!