The craziest thing happened this week.
During a weekly staff meeting in September, our DOS told us about this thing called the IH Young Learners Conference, and how this great opportunity for professional development was hosted at a different IH school every year, and would we like to write an application to host it at our school, even though the deadline was in less than a week?
So I looked at my new timetable, rapidly filling up with high-stakes Cambridge exam classes, and my brand-spanking-new CLIL maths syllabus that seemed to require some kind of debugging every single damn day, and my non-existent social life, constantly shrinking to accommodate all the things on my work wishlist, and I thought, “Let’s write us a conference application!”
So I did. I trawled Skyscanner to find every single direct flight from our nearest three airports, I brainstormed a never-ending list of potential corporate sponsors for the event, and I slaved over four paragraphs outlining in concise yet vivid detail all the reasons I love this school and this city. Every single person who I reached out to for help was only too happy to pitch in with everything from hotel rates to ideas for creative, unique social events. And even though I knew, in my heart of hearts, that IH were never going to choose our tiny school to host an annual international event, I really believed in what we were doing even just for the sake of acknowledging amongst ourselves how great our school really is.
I mean, everybody knew we weren’t going to get it. Our DOS reminded us not to get our hopes up, and a colleague told me she’d heard a rumour that a very, very big rival school in a very, very big city was also in the running, and a certain ELT pronunciation guru, who had popped down to our neck of the woods to lead a teacher training session, reassured me that the work we had done was valid and that we might even be in with a chance … the following year.
And then earlier this week my DOS and Director ushered us all into the staffroom in hushed tones at 4.30pm on an otherwise normal weekday afternoon and held up a wrinkled piece of A4 paper with a hastily-scrawled message that said IH YL CONFERENCE MARCH 2018 OUR SCHOOL, and, well, I lost my freaking mind, everyone.
I’m still not sure I’ve quite managed to get it back. It’s one thing to believe that you and your organisation are powerful, but it’s quite another to have that belief validated by your multinational parent organisation and school directors around the world who chose the proposal that you wrote.
That heart-pounding exploding-glitter shock was closely followed by the cold realisation of just how much work lies in store for us between now and March, should everything go to plan. For days, I was too scared to even write this blog post, terrified that my director would pop into the staffroom again only to say that it had, in the end, all been a big joke. But she hasn’t done, because it isn’t, and now it’s up to the whole team to prove that we are up to the task.
I have faith, just as I had faith that writing a ten-page application wasn’t a complete waste of time in the first place. But while we’ve got a little breathing room, I’m going to keep celebrating these small victories that remind us of the potential that we teachers have to change our little ELT worlds, one conference at a time.