BELTA 10th Anniversary – A Delirious Time

05/05/2023 - 00:32

As BELTA has a partnership with IATEFL Poland, our two organisations exchange speakers to our respective conferences. For our 10th anniversary edition we were happy to welcome IATEFL Poland's Jerome Washington. In his blog post Jerome decribes how he experienced BELTA Day and his stay in Brussels. Thank you, Jerome, for your contribution!

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BELTA 10th Anniversary – A Delirious Time

Jerome Washington

BELTA was the first international conference I’d ever presented at abroad. Still rather new to the game I was excited when I was blessed with the opportunity to present there after being sponsored by IATEFL Poland. To say it was my idea would be a lie. One of my greatest colleagues (and dear friend) Ania (Let’s Talk Conversation Cards) had given me information about the grant being offered at this conference. It was BELTA’s own Bruno Leys, who had attended my previous presentation for IATEFL Poznań, that gave me the final push to muster the courage to present abroad. His words, thick with joy, showed me that I did possess the skills to continue to share my ideas with teachers and students alike. Plus with all that had happened since I’d last presented in Poznań, I knew that this presentation would be my best yet. I was going crazy making constant tweaks and changes to my work. At one point it was a delirious time for me because I was so hell bent on not disappointing BELTA or IATEFL. It took the woman in my life, Renata, to calm me down, telling me that I should be excited and not so caught up in the politics of being perfect. To simply enjoy this opportunity. Make the most of it and have fun not only at the conference but also explore and see what Brussels had to offer. With that food for thought in mind, it was time for me to board my plane and head over to Brussels. A place I’d never been before. A city that welcomed me with open arms.

As most people know, I am not Polish. I am an American from Detroit, Michigan. I have been living in Poland for 9 years now with no plans of leaving any time soon. Poland is my home for various reasons. Before I met the BELTA delegates and speakers my eyes lit when I stumbled upon a tiny shop that carried one of Detroit’s finest products, Faygo – a soda of many flavors. It had been 9 years since I’d last tasted its sweetness. When I found the soda at a Candy Pop store, my soul raged into a ferocious state. Once that Peach-flavored bottle was in my hands, all the stress and worries I had evaporated into the air. 9 years is a long time for not being home. 9 years is a long time to not have the delicacies of a Detroit classic. With that bottle in my hand, Brussels became my home. That evening when I met with some of the speakers and the delegates: Paulina, Ellen, Julia, Viki, Ada, Sylvie, Ilona, Regina, Agnieszka, Daphne, Mieke, I was no longer an outsider, I was right at home, ready to step on this stage to share my ideas with my peers and to listen others as well.

BELTA Day as a whole was a smooth day. The plenary speakers Tyson Seburn and James Taylor left a lasting impression on me in more ways that one. Tyson’s talk on queerness was indeed queer. Queer is good. Queer is awkward. Queer is disturbing to the undisturbed. Isn’t that how we learn? It’s like going to the gym. Muscles don’t build when they aren’t being disturbed. The heavier the weight, the more tired the muscles become, but in return the muscles learn and build to be come stronger, more comfortable. I’ve already thanked Tyson 100 times over, but I will continue to thank him because I did indeed learn a valuable lesson in his talk. I did learn from James too (and others as well). James and his 10 rules and quotes for fostering the ideas of better learning and effectively teaching the new generation not just through coursebooks but with the universe that is at our disposal again had me questioning my methods moving forward. Later in the evening I had the chance to speak with both of them on a more intimate level and I thought I knew all there was with ELT, but I still have a long way to go. I’m excited to see where my paths will lead me.

Other sessions I attended was Sylvie & Ilona (English for Children) and their wonderful program for working with children and teens. The tools created by the mastermind Sylvie is something I look forward to putting to use with my daughter. The Three Little Pig’s tale is something everyone should check out. That material had me ready to sing and dance with my baby girl. Regina & Agnieszka (Regipio) and their splendid games had me lusting for more. I can work on with Reported Speech with ease now until I can’t Score No More. Abbie and her Hello Drama lesson had me ready to act and role play the classics like Cinderella, or show to all my creative students that they are indeed creative. And my own presentation was epic, better than what I had envisioned throughout my methodical planning during the weeks leading up to the conference. Honestly, it didn’t even feel like a presentation because the room did most of the work with their roundtable-esk debates. As I’ve mentioned before, I felt right at home debating the situations in some of the books I was speaking about, and showing indirectly that reading can be fun. That it can be exciting. That a delirious time can be had if only we as teachers and students can put in a little more effort in picking up a book (or ebook or audio).

In the end, I think about Berber and her student, Fenna vd Zwaag, that won the poetry contest. I think about the celebration at La Kasbah and being groomed by all the delegates with knowledge and their wish for more young people like myself to step up in the ELT world. At the town square, I stood in the center on a Sunday morning before my flight, sucking in the ecstasy of the crisp air. So many people moving, the youngsters running wild. The elderly enjoying the simplicity of a rambunctious morning. Teens and adults excitingly taking selfies and portraits of the Gothic palaces that surrounds us. It was there where I opened that Peach Faygo and took a sip. The peach sensation tantalizing my taste buds into submission; involuntarily causing tears to drip from my eyes. My eyes, soaked with joy, stared at the Belgian and European Union flag that swayed in the gentle wind. It was at that delirious moment I knew I was right where I needed to be and where I needed to go.

Thank you BELTA and IATEFL Poland for bestowing upon me this delirious moment in time.

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