Let me ask you a few questions before you decide the answer to the question above. First, are you looking for a very satisfying conference with your peers and a way to grow your PLN? Second, are you looking for a conference that caters to where you are in the world of teaching using TPRS/CI (beginner or experienced)? Third, do you want to go to a conference that can change your life and/or way of teaching? If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, then iFLT 16 is the place for you.
Why, may you ask, do I feel qualified to write about this topic? The answer is as complicated as it is simple. I attended iFLT 15 in Minnesota and it really DID change my life and way of teaching using TPRS/CI. I was able to meet and listen to many of the people whose blogs I read for inspiration or whose work I follow (Carol Gaab, Bryce Hedstrom, Grant Boulanger, Kristy Placido, Ben Slavic, Karen Rowan, Martina Bex, Carrie Toth, Jason Fritze, Linda Li…I could go on). Not to mention, I was able to listen to the keynote speaker Dr. Stephen Krashen himself in a small classroom setting where we were able to ask him questions. Wow! When you look at the ‘I’ in iFLT and it stands for ‘International’, the conference truly was international. There were people from Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey…the list goes on. And of course there were attendees from every corner of the US. It was truly an amazing experience to be there among so many people learning from each other and building a community of teachers to lean on and ask questions of later on. All I can say is ‘Wow!’ and ‘Thank you!’
I say ‘Thank you’ because iFLT 15 truly saved me as a teacher and brought about a powerful change to my classes. I need to explain a little of my history for this to make sense. In the Spring of 2014, my principal at the time informed me that I would be having a student teacher starting in the fall of 2014. I was finishing my 18th year of teaching Spanish, so I was fine with the idea. But not because I thought I could mentor this young man, but because I saw him as a possible replacement for me. Two years prior to this I went through a great personal tragedy and had been sliding down a slope of burning out professionally. This student teacher was going to take over for me and all would be fine because I could fade quietly into the past. Fall of 2014 my student teacher started and he was doing great. I gave him some rudimentary training on TPRS/CI and modeled it before he got started, but I knew he would need more eventually. He left me in November to finish his student teaching at the elementary level. He returned to the high school where I taught after Christmas break as a full-time teacher of ESL and Spanish 1. My plan was working out better than I thought.
I then learned of the iFLT 15 conference in Minneapolis. Perfect! It would be a great place for him to get the further training he needed. I felt I should go with him to make sure if he had questions etc I could help out, but that also meant staying on for another year teaching. We attended the conference and that is where the magic happened. The dying ember of my joy of teaching was suddenly re-ignited full-force. My former student teacher attended the beginner sessions and I the experienced ones. We would discuss during breaks and at the end of the day. I could see the passion for teaching Spanish growing in him, but I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on with me. All of a sudden, I was looking forward to trying new things in the classroom that I saw modeled at the conference (ie. MovieTalk, Reader’s Theater). I was spending my evenings in the hotel reading all the tweets and posts from the day and looking at links people posted. I WAS EXCITED about teaching again! How did that happen? I was ready to fade away, and suddenly…everything changed. THANK YOU to everyone I encountered at iFLT 15! Whether you were a presenter, an attendee, a language class instructor…THANK YOU! You saved this Spanish teacher.
So, now you can answer the original question. Should you go to iFLT 16? YES!!!! It will be awesome!
Pat Rolfes is a Spanish Teacher from Worthington, MN. She has been teaching Spanish for 20 years, and using TPRS/CI for 11 years. Follow her on Twitter @srarolfes.