The TESOL President’s Blog
Last month, on February 13, Hawai’i TESOL held its annual conference with the theme of “Languacultures and ELT” at Kapi’olani Community College, Honolulu, Oahu, where I was invited to give the plenary address. I was able to attend the HITESOL conference through the TESOL International Association’s Affiliate Speaker Request program, which, as I wrote in my last TESOL President’s Blog, gives all of our 100+ affiliates the chance to apply, twice a year, for financial, logistic, and other support to bring a member of TESOL’s Board of Directors to speak at the affiliate’s conference. Funding is limited, but through this program the association has supported dozens of affiliate conferences, all over the world, in recent years. In our most recent round of Affiliate Speaker Requests, we had only a few applications, so I would encourage affiliates that are holding their annual conferences between 1 May 2017 and 31 October 2017 to submit an application before the next deadline of 1 September 2016.
This year’s Hawai’i TESOL conference reminded me of one of the first TESOL affiliate conferences I attended during my year as president, which I wrote about under the title “Small Is Beautiful,” referring to the PELLTA 2015 conference, in Penang, Malaysia, in May 2015. It is appropriate to use that phrase again, “Small is Beautiful,” as the Hawai’i TESOL conference was attended by approximately 175 participants, in a uniquely beautiful setting. The majority of the presenters were students enrolled in BA, MA, and PhD programs at universities in the state, and about one-third of the approximately 80 presenters did not reside on the islands.
Because of my strong beliefs about the centrality of context, as reflected in the ELT In Context series, from the TESOL Press, I usually spend several months researching the place I’ve been invited to, especially if I am going there for the first time, as was the case with this trip. As part of that research, I discovered that the word “Aloha” has a much greater breadth and depth of meaning than is usually realized. This led me to develop and discuss, during my plenary, the notion of “density of meaning” (DoM), which is a measure of how much meaning is contained and communicated within how few words.
For example, according to one Hawai’ian writer, there is “a fundamental code of ethics” and
a deeper layer of the meaning of the word Aloha. The code is derived from one of the acronymic meanings of Aloha.
A, ala, watchful, alertness
L, lokahi, working with unity
O, oia’i’o, truthful honesty
H, ha’aha’a, humility
A, ahonui, patient perseverance (Rule, 2001)
A new Hawai’i TESOL logo was unveiled at the conference, which was designed by Huy Phung, a graduate student at the University of Hawai’i Manoa, and, during the conference, a group of graduate students at UH Manoa, supervised by Richard Day, carried out a project titled “The impact of second language teaching conferences on our teaching practices,” which asked two key questions:
- What changed in your teaching after the 2016 Hawai’i TESOL Conference?
- What activities did you actually end up using in your classroom?
Given how much time we spend attending and presenting at conference, these are important questions!
The Hawai’i TESOL Conference Chair was Neil Anderson, who is also a past president of the TESOL International Association (2001–2002). So, I wanted to thank him and the conference co-organizers for embodying the idea of “Small is Beautiful,” and to thank all of his colleagues at Brigham Young University, Hawai’i, for showing us the true meaning of the “Aloha Spirit.” Memories of the warm and welcoming loving-kindness that I experienced there was one of the high points of my year as president. In a world so torn by conflict, so deeply divided, my time in Hawai’i, at Hawai’i TESOL, and at BYU-Hawai’i was a humbling and moving reminder that, as educators, an essential part of our work is to help make the world, with every lesson we teach, a little less damaged, and a little more healed.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing you and talking with you at TESOL 2016 in Baltimore, in a few weeks. In the meantime, or if you’re not able to join us there, I look forward to hearing from you, here.
Rule, C. (2001). The deeper meaning of Aloha. Retrieved from http://www.huna.org/html/deeper.html