Making up for the sobriety of my youth


Don’t be put off right from the beginning – this is ELT-related stuff. In effect this post alludes to a whole bunch of posts describing the experience of attending conferences floating all around the blogosphere these days. I first came across this subject a couple of days ago, and I think it was on Michael Griffin’s blog, where you can find his own contribution, as well as a list of possibly related links.

Unlike many of my friends, I’ve never been a keen pop concert goer. I’ve actually been to very few events of that sort; the only one I can recall now is a Jedro Tull concert in Prague, almost 20 years ago, where I actually turned up by mere chance (my boyfriend and his mob were going and they talked me into it as well). It was an unforgettable experience, but it didn’t even cross my mind that I should go backstage after the concert and get the band’s autographs. I think it was partly because I was too proud and shy. Unlike my peers, I never collected pop star souvenirs or the like (with one exception: there was a Pet Shop Boys poster on my bedroom wall). However, I’m convinced that by skipping this natural stage of a teenage girl’s development, I must have created a gap in my life – a gap I’m now trying to fill in.

Not that I’ve finally started going to pop concerts; instead I’ve started attending conferences. Although I’ve never experienced what it feels like to manage to get my favourite rock star’s autograph or catch his sweat-drenched T-shirt thrown into the audience, I think I can clearly imagine the excitement the fan feels.

I suppose that people go to conferences for similar reasons why they go to pop concerts; they want to hear their favourite presenters (pop stars), listen to their favourite topics (music) and be there with other like-minded people (the audience). The truth is that conference presenters are a bit like pop stars and like pop stars, some of them are bigger stars than others. The biggest stars often start conferences with plenary speeches and they also wind the events up. So you can imagine my elation after my name had been announced during the final raffle drawing the other day. I won a special prize – a book with the inscription of Jamie Keddie, who had just closed the conference with his amazing plenary speech. At that moment I wanted to scream and faint like a Beatles fan.

I would never describe myself as a crazy, eccentric daredevil. On the contrary, I’m a discreet, inconspicuous and unobtrusive person who avoids any kind of embarrassment. So it’s hard to believe (even for me) that in addition to my luck with the raffle, I virtually ‘stole’ my favourite presenter’s conference name badge (with his permission, I must confess) to keep it as a souvenir which I’m planning to display in the staffroom for all my colleagues to see. I can’t wait to see their envious expressions – because they all know he’s a real star in the ELT field. Here’s the hard evidence if you think I’m inventing things.
As I said, either I’m making up for the sobriety of my youth or I’m totally crazy. But this is the real power of conferences – apart from learning all the amazing knowledge, I can turn back time and relive my teenage years. But I can do so in disguise, with some dignity and without damaging my eardrums or discrediting my reputation (at least I hope so) because what I do is actually professional development, right? So there’s nothing to be ashamed of, is there?

About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for almost 25 years and I still love my job. You can find out more about my passion here on my blog.
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8 Responses to Making up for the sobriety of my youth

  1. lizzieserene says:

    This is really awesome and I can totally relate. I wouldn't necessarily call my youth sober, but I wasn't a star-gazer either. Nor am I really, now. But I am impressed by the stars in our field and even more so by how approachable they tend to be. And Hana, you are also a star to me!


  2. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks for your comment, Anne (particularly for the last sentence :-). I agree with you that it's amazing how approachable some of the most successful people in the field are – definitely more approachable than some of the teachers or academics I remember from my school days. I will never forget my amazement when after commenting on Scott Thornbury's blog (I think it was my first online comment ever) he replied immediately addressing me by my first name. I couldn't believe my eyes – the ELT star I had cited in my MA thesis on every other page read and thanked me for my comment. This helped me realize that even I have something valuable to say – like every teacher with experience and courage to air views. Well, I suppose this is a topic for another post which might be called: The day Scott Thornbury replied to my comment … It seems I am a star-gazer after all! 😀 Oops, isn't my blog becoming too personal?


  3. lizzieserene says:

    I can understand your excitement! To be heard and valued, it's so amazing. And I'm so inspired by you who pass it on to the visitors to your own blog and the strangers you meet on Twitter.


  4. venvve says:

    Hi Hana,

    You had me laughing out loud with this post, especially the part about catching sweat-drenched T-shirts. :)) I treasure my copy of “How Language Works” even though I have other books by David Crystal, but he signed this one! I brought it to a conference he was speaking at in Zagreb a few years ago, and queued up after the plenary to meet him and get his autograph. So yeah, nothing to be ashamed of. 🙂


  5. Zhenya says:

    Hi Hana

    Such a personal and well-written post, and so open and honest comments and your responses!
    Agree with what Anne said completely: I am impressed by the stars in our field and even more so by how approachable they tend to be. – And wondering if this realization that every contribution is valuable and important is partially the reason we go to those conferences (for real, not face-to-face)? This sounds like another post to me. I think you are inspiring your readers to write, Hana!


  6. Hana Tichá says:

    I'm sooo happy I made you laugh out loud, Vedrana. My intention was to make the reader smile (at least) and I hoped that they will nod in agreement. I'm really happy it worked for you. 🙂 Thanks a lot for reading and commenting.


  7. Hana Tichá says:

    Dear Zhenya, I was so excited about the conference that I didn't even realize how personal my words were. That's the power of 'hot' feedback (that's what it's called, right?); it's more spontaneous and thus more open. Yes, I would agree that we go to conferences because our presence is welcomed and appreciated there and we feel we belong somewhere – at least most of us.
    I'm happy to hear that I inspire you to write. By the way, most of my posts were inspired by other people's posts, which is amazing. Anyway, I can't wait to read your contribution related to this topic!


  8. Pingback: The 22nd P.A.R.K. Conference for English teachers (a heads-up) | How I see it now

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