Saturday, 1 October 2011

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A Weekend in Zug

Beautiful Zug

On September 17th I was fortunate enough to attend the English Teachers Association of Switzerland Special Interest Groups Day in gorgeous Zug, just a short train journey from Zurich. Among the many fascinating attendees were Mike Harrison, Ania Musielak and local resident Vicky Loras. As a way of reflecting on our weekend at the conference, we asked each other two questions to answer on our blogs. You can read Mike's answers here, Vicky's here, and my and Ania’s below.

First up, my answers...

Mike’s questions

Did anything surprise you about the conference? What and why/why not?

There were no surprises for me, but since they are not always a good thing, I was pleased about that. I expected a well run, enjoyable conference with great presenters and that’s what I got. The venue was perfect (apart from the lack of wifi!) and the whole event was very well put together.

Tell us one interesting thing you learnt about teaching.

Only one? I really enjoyed Anthony Gaughan’s demonstration of a simple and effective dogme class. There are a lot of misunderstandings and misrepresentations of what dogme is and how it works, so it was great to see such an excellent example in action. Anthony is an excellent presenter and I would encourage anyone who gets the chance to go and see him.

Despite appearances, Anthony's talk was well attended!
Vicky’s questions

Who did you meet for the first time there?

This was only my third ELT conference, and my second with a PLN, so it was a chance to catch up with some friends I’d met at IATEFL (Ania, Vladka Michalkova) and spend time with people I’d only met briefly (Mike, Ken Wilson, Mike Hogan). It was also great to meet some people for the first time. Vicky is well known to everyone on Twitter and the PLN for her energy and enthusiasm, so it was fantastic to find out she’s just like that in real life! Chuck Sandy’s appearance was also a pleasant surprise as I didn’t know he was going to be there until I saw his Facebook status update that morning. I look forward to seeing him in Paris in November.

What did you like the most about Zug?

It wasn’t the weather! From what I saw of it, Zug is a lovely small town. I just wished I could have stayed there longer, and that the weather had been kinder on the Sunday morning when I had some free time. I’ll have to make up for it next year.

Ania and Vicky enjoying Zug's nightlife

Ania’s questions

Which idea taken from the conference have you already used with your students (or are planning to use)?

It’s tough to choose just one. I’ve been very influenced by Ken’s suggestion that we need to choose more thought provoking and engaging materials for our students to read (see this blog post to learn more). I also really liked some of your (Ania’s) practical suggestions for positive feedback and reinforcement. Using the coloured blocks as a way for the students to subtly express how they’re feeling about the activity is a great idea, and the demonstration of sandwich feedback was very effective. And Mike Hogan showed us that we can use business with beginners, which is something I'll be looking at more closely.

Did you have enough time for networking and meeting friends?

There’s never enough time, is there? But since we got to meet up from Friday night to Sunday morning, I can’t complain! I find that the opportunities to meet up with everyone, which have been facilitated first by Twitter, then by blogs and Facebook, mean that the social aspect of a conference is just as important as the presentations. It all adds to a really rewarding weekend. 

Now it’s Ania’s turn...

Mike’s questions
Did anything surprise you about the conference? What and why/why not?
I was surprised by how friendly and open everybody was. And not at all afraid or shy to participate in the workshops (well, some needed a push, like a bag of candy as a reward, yes James, I’m talking about you ;) ). I also felt very comfortable when it comes to finding my way around the venue – IATEFL Brighton was a huge event and I often got lost!
Tell us one interesting thing you learnt about teaching.
I would have to say that Ken Wilson’s workshop on drama gave me a lot of new ideas.  As I use drama in my classes, I always look for some activities, especially for elementary students, that can help them open up. And Ken proved again that even the most basic conversations (like “What time is it?”) can be delivered with flare and passion. He made us use two (very old) mobile phones and have this exchange in an angry mood, which we later switched to a calm one.

Ania in action.
James’ questions
Apart from giving your own presentations, why did you want to go to the conference?
I love attending conferences as they provide me with so many ideas that I can use in my classes. Observing other teachers motivates me to be a better educator. Conferences are also a wonderful opportunity to talk to friends and share our thoughts about teaching (well, not only teaching ;) ). But I guess I would have never come if it hadn’t been for Vicky and her encouragement and huge help.
Apart from your own presentations , who were you most looking forward to seeing present?
As Vicky Loras, Mike Harrison and Vladka Michalkova were presenting at the same time as me, I couldn’t attend their sessions. But I was really looking forward to seeing Ken’s plenary and his drama workshop (which was amazing, but that is not surprising as he’s the Drama King ;) ). I was also very happy that I managed to attend Anthony Gaughan’s session on recycling vocabulary which showed how to use the language that occurs on the lessons.
Vicky’s questions
Who did you meet for the first time there?
Oh, so many people…But I loved meeting Chuck Sandy and Andreas Grundtvig face to face.
What did you like the most about Zug?
It’s such a wonderful city, I love the lake, the open-air restaurants and the castle in the Old Town. I also liked the chocolate and delicious cakes served in cafes – the apfelstrudel was yummy. Next time I’m going to try the Kirschntorte which is strongly spiked.

Ania, James, Mike and some swans. 


  1. Thank you James for letting me write this post together with you and for including me in your summary:) I had fun and it was a really great concerence:)
    Ania Musielak

  2. James,

    It was super to meet you face-to-face after interacting with you on Twitter - also great to attend the events with you, Ania and Mike and also spend time together.

    We will be very happy to have you here again next year - and perhaps, if you like, see you present as well! See you in less than a month, James!

    Bye for now, Vicky

  3. Thanks Vicky, it was great to meet you too. Roll on Paris!



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