IATEFL Poland representative on IATEFL Slovenia 2022
Long has it been since a live conference happened. And what a conference that was!
On Thursday morning I frantically packed my bags, hoping that I remembered about everything…Euros, tickets, suitcase, Ptasie Mleczka…This was my first trip abroad since COVID hit us in 2019. As it turned out later on, in this hassle I forgot swimming gear (big mistake with IATEFL Slovenia conference…).
The flight itself was as pleasantly short as I remembered from previous visits to Ljublana. The airport was equally pleasantly empty, just 5 flights coming in on that day gave me an impression that this trip was going to be one filled with space and time to unwind.
While waiting for my pick up at the airport (yes, IATEFL Slovenia does go a few extra miles to make rep’s life as careless as possible), I looked around and observed the beauty of the untouched nature of this country. A moment later, I was on my way to Moravske Toplice, to a four-star hotel Terme Vivat. The two-hour trip passed on a brief conversation with the driver followed by some time to touch up my presentation.
Even though the flight took 1.5 h, the entire trip lasted around 6 hours. When I got to the place it was pitch black outside, but the hotel was full of buzz and positive energy. Just while entering, a teacher came by to say hello and that they tried out my method I presented nearly 4 years before. Taking into consideration that it was neither someone from my Facebook friends list nor an organizer, this spontaneous gesture made me feel very welcome from the get-go. I went to register, got my package, bought raffle tickets (a bit more about this later), and went off to the room I shared with a friend from the past – Ondrej from Slovakia. Five minutes later I was ready to dive into the conference.
The event itself was magical. Six plenary speakers, eighty workshops/speeches divided into four separate rooms, social evenings every day from 8.30 pm till late nights, raffle lotteries twice a day, poetry competition, praline and chocolate making workshop, paraffine bath for hands, pop quiz, guided gymnastics in the pool, coffee breaks, talks on the corridors, friendships rekindled, new frienships built, and tons of sunshine. There was space for serious discussions as well. The subject of war in Ukraine was omnipresent in talks between the people, talking about what to do, how to help. It’s been more than a week since I came back and it is still difficult to sort through the memories. Also, thanks to the works of IATEFL Slovenia and Margit Szesztay, I’m currently taking part in an international poetry project to support Ukraine.
As for my representing, it went smoothly as ever. Starting with the speech – the subject was one that I feel comfortable with talking about and I had an actively engaged audience 🙂 Knowing that my slot was straight after the guided gymnastics, I didn’t expect high attendance, but still had a group to talk to.
Moving on to other responsibilities, I spoke at length with IATEFL Slovenia board members, IATEFL Hungary, IATEFL Slovakia, former American fellows (and currently scholars in Germany), and a few keynote speakers. Also, I actively participated in over 12 speeches and workshops, took part (and won the first prize) in a poetry competition, and made some time to wander about and explore the local landscape. In essence, apart from the swimming pool, pralines, and paraffin bath for the hands, I did my best to be everywhere.
The most memorable speech I took part in? It would be hard to mention one. I was lucky enough to learn a lot from Claudia on ADHD students (and teachers), how to teach/speak Australian dialect from the Ambassador of Australia for Slovenia, technology use from IATEFL Slovakia reps (as well as plenary speakers). I also listened with great pleasure to a wonderful speech by Sarah Mercer on positive language education, rethought my content creation with IATEFL Hungary President, and saw good practices of international school cooperation (Poland included!). I also took part in a very well-needed session on taboo subjects by Jasna Sebez that brought about a lot of emotions and made a lasting impression on me. This workshop was particularly important for us in the midst of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Overall, I cannot complain about a single session I visited. There was space, inspiration, laughter, and positive energy. Even the fact that this year there was no plenary in a swimming pool did nothing to spoil the overall impression.
I promised a few words on the raffle. Slovenians organize it to support their future conferences and dedicate books from sponsors + some extras (like two entries to the IATEFL Hungary summer course and conference, a course with Thom Jones, and a weekend stay at the hotel for two). It is as simple as it gets – you buy tickets and need to show up during pre-designated time and place to pick up the awards (if winning). From the 10 euro I spent, I got five prizes. This made my stay even more pleasurable!
Overall, IATEFL Slovenia 2022 was a conference that I needed. Set in a beautiful remote area, with people that want to have you and see you, with tons of good energy and quality speeches. I can honestly say that I am eagerly waiting for the 2023 edition (and hope I get a chance to represent again :)). Thank you IATEFL Poland for giving me the chance and all the teachers who haven’t applied yet – there are tons of good events happening in Europe. Not only England is worth going to, but conferences like Slovenia, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia are also wonderful places to visit, learn and recharge your batteries!