A Teacher Candidate’s Experience of the 2014 OFLA Conference

Yuanrui Beltowski, University of Akron  A Great Gathering for Ohio Foreign Language Teachers

My name is Yuanrui Beltowski and I am a graduate student currently studying to receive my Chinese Teaching License at the University of Akron. I received my Bachelor’s degree in English from the Zhengzhou University of Light Industry in China. After graduating I became an English teacher in my home town of Kaifeng. There I taught middle school and high school aged students for three years. I have a strong passion towards language study as well as language teaching. After I immigrated to the US, I continued to pursue my passion towards language teaching. As a native speaker of Chinese I want to share my language and my culture with all American students.

In order to pursue my passion for language teaching I began studying at the University of Akron.

As part of my studies I was tasked with engaging in various professional development opportunities.  For each of these opportunities I wrote a field journal with my rationale for choosing the professional development opportunity, what I learned from the experience, and how it would apply to the classroom setting. This year I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship to attend the Annual OFLA Conference.

The three-day 2014 Ohio Foreign Language Association Conference was held in Polaris from April 10 to 12. It is a great gathering for Ohio foreign language teachers to reach out and embrace each other into the profession. This was the 52nd annual OFLA conference which held hundreds of teachers who were willing to share their expertise. Together the teachers aided each other in dealing with the ever changing needs of language teaching, and through this mutual support developing greater skills that provide students with better methods of reaching proficiency in their new language. As a teacher candidate, I feel it is a precious opportunity to update my knowledge, promote my proficiency, and meet other world language teachers. Actually, I gained plenty of information on my profession and made acquaintances with other Chinese teachers from all over Ohio.

In this conference, there were 58 hours of workshops and 120 hours of sessions packed into these three days, which offers OFLA members plenty of time to become actively involved. I attended several workshops on Friday and Saturday, as well as the Awards Banquet on Friday evening. Since I have trouble in using technology properly and effectively in foreign language classroom, I selected a couple of workshops on how to use technology inside and outside class to attend. The first one I went to was about the technology use for inside and outside of classroom presented by two Chinese teachers from Laurel School and Brooklyn High School. Their presentation about technology was very helpful and tied to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) standards. They displayed a number of advanced technology tools such as lingtclassroom, voicethread, EDU2.0, Haiku, teacher tube and so forth. They also facilitated how to use those technologies for making general homework, assignments, and tests or simply practice forms for students. I learned much from this workshop and their expertise on the subject of technology. Another workshop for technology is “A Year Worth of Web-based Classroom Games and Activities” presented by a Chinese teacher from Columbus School for girls. She introduced to all the teachers some of the best websites for teaching languages as well as some of the best classroom games and activities, and the final purpose is to combine these two factors to create technology-based classroom activities. That sounds very attractive and interesting. I observed some technology-based activities before, but I was not familiar with its manipulation.  It is amazing that this presenter included all the useful websites in her blendspace to share with others. In this way, teachers can save time and energy to looking for the tool they need. I think sharing resource with others is a shortcut to benefit self and others.

The most encouraging session in the conference is the Keynote Speech given by Laura Terrill. In her speech, she proposed that as foreign language teachers, we need the courage to teach. She raised five questions for all the teachers attending to think over. What do I teach? How do I teach? Why do I teach? Who am I as a teacher? Who am I teaching? She also shared her philosophy about teaching. She said she would like to be a lighthouse when teaching students with the purpose of helping students to achieve their goals. She emphasized that we should teach students in ways that students can collaborate with others, communicate clearly and accurately, be open-minded, think critically and creatively, engage in problem-solving and reflect on learning. Her main idea in this speech was that learning is what all the teachers need to pay attention to, and we all have the responsibility to make an effort to help students feel successful in achieving skills. Laura’s speech was so powerful that it set up a fire of passion within the audience of teachers to devote themselves to the teaching field with the strong belief that they can help their students gain skills in the languages they study. This speech ended with great applause.

Friday afternoon, I attended the meeting held by Ohio Chinese Teaching Association. There I met many excellent Chinese teachers from different schools in Ohio. Some of the teachers shared their teaching strategies and experience with us. I got specific teaching techniques on Chinese from them. We all used our mother language to discuss and talk together, making me feel at home, a very intimate feeling. I was excited to join, and also expecting to be a Chinese teacher and contribute to this Chinese association.

A high point of this conference was the Awards Banquet where a few distinguished world language teachers were rewarded because of their contributions and great progress. Among these, our professor Dr. Susan Colville-Hall accepted the Distinguished Career Award, which was very exciting and encouraging. I feel very proud and lucky to having such a splendid professor. She is a great example for us to follow. After the banquet, my friends and I joined the Presidential Reception where we relaxed and enjoyed some dance moves with other teachers.

The workshop of “Shift Happens” given by the ODE Consultant Ryan Wertz on Saturday was fairly marvelous as well. He and his partner provided us with a clear map about the shift happening in different areas in language teaching from 20th century to 21st century, such as in language use, communicative mode, learning tasks, the role of the teacher, proficiency, content, planning, rigor, authenticity, assessment strategies, places and others. We were given a professional blueprint for teachers especially for some beginners like me to become aware of those changes in teaching and keep pace with the changes. I would put the entire shift in my mind, and remind myself all the time while I am teaching in the future.

Three days went fast. This conference was so impressive and useful that I am looking forward to the next year. I did not only benefit a lot on my profession from this events, what’s more, it motivated me to work hard to be a qualified world language teacher via contacting and meeting plenty of outstanding world language teachers in Ohio. I always think attending language events would help me to make progress, and this event strongly confirmed my belief. This is the first time for me to attend such a wonderful event since coming to Ohio, and it encouraged me greatly. I feel very proud to be a world language teacher candidate in Ohio, and OFLA is a very professional and welcoming organization. I hope I can work with this organization as a Chinese teacher, and perhaps also receive an award someday. I will step towards my dream with much care and effort.

This entry was posted in Vol. 52, No. 3 - Spring 2014. Bookmark the permalink.

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