Friday, 23 March 2012

Script for a Jester's Tear - observing iATEFL


I have to admit it felt very wrong to be driving towards the Fukushima nuclear power station on Friday night. I was not actually going there, but close enough (a lot closer than my relative safety in Nagano prefecture anyway). It was not a pleasant drive either – I passionately hate the Misayama tunnel road (I used to drive it regularly with classes in and around Ueda/Maruko) and it rained/was foggy all the way.

I was the only person staying in the hotel in Suzumenomiya. I am surprised there’s even a hotel there. The beer machine wouldn’t take notes – I only had notes. An exciting Friday night then? 

Well, actually yes, because on the other side of the planet the2012 IATEFL Conference was drawing to a close. I had been trying to keep up via twitter and their brilliant website which featured live interviews with the great & the good of planet EFL, as well as an archive. The final Plenary speaker was going to be a Scottish guy called Derek Dick – I’ve only ever known of him as “Fish”...but here’s the thing, I have known of him since about 1981. I was pretty sure99% of my teaching peers had no idea who they were going to be addressed by to conclude their shindig!

“Fish” used to be the lead singer/song-writer with a ‘prog rock’ group called Marillion. I saw them play a few times in Sheffield & Lancaster, even had a t-shirt. I managed to get the live feed going on my iPhone just as his familiar accent was reading a lyric from an oldie – which I was able to remember and recite from some very dark and dusty memory. My signal dropped out and eventually failed completely, but not before I had enjoyed hearing him sing to a genuinely gobsmacked audience (judging from tweets out of the audience) relishing his wordcraft and love of a story told well. 

I was annoyed to have lost the feed, but it actually gave me time to contemplate how lucky I was at all to have been able to participate so voyeuristically with a bunch of teachers in Glasgow on a wet Friday night in the middle of nowhere, Japan. If you had told me during my sixth form year that the lead singer who had just sworn his head off through a set at the Sheffield City Hall would be addressing me through my phone to a teachers’ conference on the other side of the planet (and that I would also know members of the audience and be ‘reading their minds’ in the process)...just too bizarre.

Have to admit I was jealous of the likes of @barbsaka @shellterrell @mickstout @eltexperiences etc actually being there...looks like one hell of a good conference and one that Japan’s own JALT really needs to take heed of. But, by the same token I knew I’d be back in Matsumoto for dinner without having to endure cattle-class & the indignation of being fingerprinted as a “welcome back”.

Just a small matter of examining 30 or so children for their Cambridge ESOL Young Learners exams in the morning, before the drive home tomorrow afternoon.