Every year Eastbourne School of English provides the Graham Smith scholarship to help support an English teacher to attend the IATEFL Conference in the UK. The scholarship scheme was set up in the memory of Graham Smith, a much-loved teacher at the school. The 2015 winner of the scholarship was Pınar Yeni-Palabiyik from Turkey. Here she talks about the experience and what it meant to her:
IATEFL: MAKING DREAMS COME TRUE
This report is a story of a novice language teacher who could have the chance to make her dreams come true thanks to Eastbourne School of English. In my first year of graduate studies, I heard the names of conferences held abroad such as IATEFL and TESOL from a lecturer for the first time and I was very impressed. At that time, that lecturer went to UK to attend 46th IATEFL Conference held in Glasgow. As she was a lecturer at the university, she could find the budget to attend such conferences, yet I was an English language teacher at a state primary school located in a village in the western part of the country. I remember that I felt it would always be impossible for me to attend a conference like IATEFL.
Then a few years passed and one day I received an email from an association concerning English language teaching. That email informed me about the IATEFL Scholarships. I just thought “why not!”, but still I did not have so much hope. I applied for a few scholarships faintheartedly because I thought “I am a simple English language teacher working at a state academic high school, perhaps more qualified people applied for these scholarships, so I do not have much chance even so it deserves to apply”. Then a few months passed and one day, when I was working at my school, I checked my email and I saw, I received an email from Eryl Griffiths congratulating me for winning Eastbourne School of English-Graham Smith Scholarship. I was surprised and excited. I remember how my knees knocked together.
After a few hours passed I realized the truth, I got the chance to attend IATEFL which was a dream for me beforehand. Then I started my preparations to attend 49th IATEFL Conference which was held in Manchester. Until flying to UK, everyone from IATEFL was very sincere and helpful. Especially Poppy White always responded to my emails urgently and answered all my questions clearly; she also rented a room for me at a hotel in Manchester. I would like to express my gratitude here once again to all the organizing committee members together with Poppy White for their help.
I flew to the UK on the 9th of April, the day before the pre-conference events. As soon as I arrived in Manchester, I got around the city to explore its beauty. I was impressed by the Piccadilly Gardens at first sight. Then I registered at my hotel and had a rest to save some energy for the next day.
The following day I went to the conference venue to attend the pre-conference event that I had chosen previously. I took a seat in Teacher Training and Education Pre-Conference event. Prof. Simon Borg was the presenter and he gave a session on trainee and trainer beliefs and practices. While I was listening to the session, lots of people from different countries shared similar problems and concerns. That moment I realized the difference of IATEFL from attending a conference in a local site. I mean that IATEFL is the place where people from diverse ethnic and national backgrounds meet. If English is acknowledged as the language of the world, then IATEFL is the right place to discuss the matters concerning English language teaching and learning.
The next day the conference started. When I went to the venue, I saw the crowd. As an English language teacher, I have attended some conferences in my country either as a presenter or participant. But IATEFL was different, and I really appreciated the organizing committee’s management of such a big event. During the conference, I attended lots of sessions according to my interest. I specifically participated in sessions focusing on teacher development, in particular I was impressed by sessions suggesting research as a tool for teachers’ professional development. That time I realized another issue for myself. I mean that as a PhD Candidate in ELT, I conducted some research as part of my courses in PhD; however, I have never researched my own teaching practices as a teacher. Therefore, teaching and researching were located in different parts of my mind till then. At the end of the conference, I decided to combine my teaching identity with my identity as a researcher in order to become a professional English language teacher who has the power to organize her courses according to the needs of her students, her school and her region as well.
In closing, I was able to realize my dreams because IATEFL was a dream for me, yet meeting Prof David Crystal was beyond my imagination. In addition, attending such a conference as a scholar increased my self-confidence. From now on I’ll have the courage to apply for events concerning my professional development. Therefore, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Eastbourne family for providing me with such an opportunity.