Happy June MALT members! I hope all of you are enjoying your summer vacation. The time to rest, relax and rejuvenate ourselves is so valuable in our profession. I would guess that many of you are enjoying some travel to locations where your target language is spoken and are conversing with the locals. Or, maybe this summer you are enjoying one of Montana’s many opportunities to hike, camp, fish, bike, or just gaze at the stars on a peaceful evening. So, if you are enjoying this time to relax and are trying to ignore the fact that we will be back to work in August, please stop reading now. (Ha ha!!) If not, please continue for a little follow-up to our awesome Spring Conference!
I want to express one more time how much I enjoyed our time together in Great Falls. At our board meeting in May, we looked at the feedback that we received at the end of the conference. In the past, we have looked over your comments, and made changes where necessary, but we haven’t always shared that thought process with all of you. So, here are some of your thoughts, and what we are doing as a board to address them.
The first question asked what you thought was most valuable about the conference. Overwhelmingly you stated that you loved Craig. He is an excellent speaker and he did a great job of keeping us focused on some excellent professional development and TPRS techniques that we could incorporate immediately. Many of you also mentioned that the time to reconnect and collaborate with colleagues from all over the state is equally as valuable as the information we receive from our guest speakers. That is happy news, because reconnecting with all of you is also a highlight for me.
Next we asked what you would change about the conference; in this area we had three areas that emerged as things we need to improve. Several of you mentioned that the meeting space was too small. It did end up being very close quarters. When the group from Great Falls originally asked how many to expect, past spring conferences have generally had 35-40 attendees. So, that is the number we were expecting, but then we ended up with record attendance of 63! By the time those final numbers were in front of us, it was too late to find a larger venue. So, I personally apologize for any discomfort that you suffered, and we will plan for more attendees in the future.
Many of you were also frustrated at the length of the business meeting and it’s timing. For as long as I have been a MALT member, the business meetings have taken place during lunch on the first day of the conference. The reason for this is that we really need your feedback and we value what you have to say about our organization. So, moving it to the end of the day on Friday might not allow us to achieve this goal. One member suggested that we could begin with the business meeting Thursday morning, and it would give new members who have never attended a conference an opportunity to make connections with names and faces. We are already locked into that noon format for Fall, but maybe we try that suggestion next Spring and see how it goes. Time management was also an issue, and I promise I will do a better job of making sure we begin and end on time at our future conferences.
One new suggestion that came out of this conference was to be able to earn college credits in addition to our OPI renewal units. Since we already designated Dillon as the location for Spring 2019, a partnership with UM-Western is a great natural extension of this idea. Blakely Edgington has already contacted UM-Western and they are willing to not only offer college credit this spring, but at our future conferences as well. We have some details to work out, for example there are a minimum number of contact hours needed for each credit hour awarded, so it is possible there will be some follow up activities that will need to be completed to fulfill the time requirements. We will share more information with you as we work through these details, but if any of you have a fun or creative suggestion, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be happy to consider those ideas.
When we asked what you would like to see in the future, the responses were varied, but continuing with proficiency based instruction is a common theme. I am confident that you will enjoy Megan Hambrick’s presentation this fall, and she plans to give us a variety of techniques that incorporate multiple aspects of comprehensible input. For Spring Conference we are working on an agreement with Annabelle Allen. Her website, http://www.lamaestraloca.com/, advocates for, “language acquisition through CI and OWL methodologies” so the plan is to continue to expand what we have been learning. We will continue the discussion about future conferences and more opportunities to earn college credit at our next business meeting. Some of you also mentioned an interest in Oral Proficiency Interviewing techniques, and that may be a possibility for next fall.
We really are listening to your suggestions, and thank you so much for such great feedback! Let’s keep the ideas flowing; our membership is what makes our organization so awesome! One member wrote,”People in our group are doing amazing things - put posters up with the “Spotlights” so we know how to connect with the experts!” So, look for those posters at the fall conference, and if you are curious about what we have to offer, you can check out the MALT schedule for fall here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NwEx9htF4h7ybAh_ku13Mh5psYiTS8sg6rqZxR43RyE/edit#gid=2042898357 . Enjoy your time off!
- Alice Nation, MALT President