How to beat the post-conference letdown

This past weekend, I went to the annual ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) conference in Philadelphia, PA. Not only was it my first time attending the conference, it was also my first time presenting to an audience of strangers. I've presented to my colleagues at school and at a very small local conference, but presenting at ACTFL was a totally different experience. I think I was a little star-struck. First of all, it was massive. I think there were around 7,000 foreign language educators in attendance. There were so many sessions to choose from (and so many of them led by people I know through my Twitter PLN) that it was a bit overwhelming. And I was really nervous about my presentation, which was a discussion of the impact of iPads on language learning. I worried that no one would come, or that the technology would fail me, or that people would heckle me. But soon I realized that, at a conference like that, you have a friendly audience. Unlike a faculty meeting or mandatory professional development, you have to want to go to ACTFL in order to go to ACTFL. The experience of being around 7,000 people who love teaching and learning language can be totally exhilarating... and then it's time to go back to school on Monday. Now what?

I'm sure I can't be the only one with this issue. I couldn't wait to apply some of my new knowledge to my teaching practice, particularly some strategies for input+1 writing and implicit (rather than explicit) teaching of grammar, but on Monday I came back to my everyday reality with a thud. The school days are so hectic, there's hardly time to go to the bathroom, let alone devote major think time to my instructional practice; in all of my classes it would be illogical to revamp a half-finished unit. Plus, I had to prepare for Thanksgiving and I caught a cold.

The perfectionist, Type A side of me was saying, "You're not doing enough! You have to do more! These kids deserve the best!" Luckily, I ignored Ms. Insanity (for once) and continued with the plans and activities I had already spent precious time setting up before the convention. I also took a long look at my lesson calendar. With only six weeks of instructional time before midterms, there's a lot I must do,  and it might not be the best time for experimentation.

However, I did identify a few areas in which I can integrate some of the new strategies I learned. In the second semester, I'm going to require my students to write their Fluency Activity reflections in Spanish (in the first semester they have had the option to write in English or Spanish) and I just know if I don't scaffold the first few assignments for them, they will turn in garbage. (Maybe that's a little harsh. They will probably turn in work that does not reflect their potential. That sounds better.) So I'm going to use the input+1 scaffolding technique I learned about to create a structured reflection form to support their writing. Also, I've already introduced the subjunctive fairly explicitly in Spanish 4, but I will have to introduce it in the third quarter for Spanish IV, so maybe I can rework the approach to make it more implicit then. Finally, in my AP class, we just read the Julio Cortázar story "Casa tomada" as an introduction to discussion of the role of government in personal and public identities, and I can use Textivate to scramble chunks of that text and have students develop their awareness of timeframe cueing, which was one of the strategies for developing internal mastery of grammar suggested in the implicit grammar presentation.

The post-conference letdown might be unavoidable, and the (self-imposed) pressure to fulfill my highest potential as an educator might be sometimes as much of a weakness as it is a strength, but I think that I managed it fairly well this year by remembering not to sacrifice the good for the great.

What did you learn from #ACTFL12? How do you manage post-conference letdown?


  1. I agree! ACTFL was so inspirational! I consider myself a good teacher, but always after the conference I feel like I'm doing everything wrong and need to start over...after apologizing to my students for ruining their chances to learn a second language! :-) I know, this is an extreme over-exaggeration on my part, but I got so many good ideas at ACTFL that I don't even know where to start...over! :-) Happy Thanksgiving! I'm definitely giving thanks for the opportunity for the learning that took place at ACTFL!

  2. I knew I wasn't the only one! Thank you for reading and commenting. Happy Thanksgiving and good luck!


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