TEA for TWO – by Louise Billroth

 ♫ Just tea for two2016-10-05_2048

And two for tea

Just me to you

And you for me alone ♫

“Tea for Two” – this well-known ditty would be a fitting soundtrack to my memory of the 14th (and, sadly, final) Biennial TEA conference: Graz ConneXion 2016. TEA for TWO is a theme which, for me personally, ran throughout the entire conference: TWO days in the enchanting city of Graz and a road trip by car with a close colleague, just the TWO of us, finally enjoying some quality time to catch up, rather than snatching the odd minute next to the coffee machine (and not just to talk shop and share ideas about our TWO joint courses but also to share something of our personal lives).

12022443_10154011260017605_2040790886699074626_oI have the feeling that we busy teachers are at times overwhelmed by the demanding, fast-paced, multi-tasking working world with what may seem like a multi-sensory bombardment and overabundance of offers to enhance our teaching knowledge and skills (webinars, newsletters, journals, forums, blogs, twitter feeds, Facebook groups, MOOCs, podcasts, etc. etc.). I wonder if these TWO ‘symptoms’ (overworked and overloaded) are possible reasons for the disappointing attendance at this year’s conference?

Selfishly, however, I relished the opportunity to draw inspiration, not only during the talks and workshops but particularly during the breaks, over a cup of tea and on a one-to-one basis with some of the big names in ELT. Due to the ‘intimate’ number of attendees, the speakers were more accessible than usual and I gained a great deal from the TWO-way conversations/debates I was personally engaged in or listened in to. The dedication and generosity of people in this profession never cease to amaze me and I am especially grateful to Jennifer Schumm Fauster for the invaluable time, undivided attention and advice she gave me after her workshop on ‘Learners’ responses to using literature to enhance their intercultural competence’.

For me, TWO of the welcome aspects of TEA conferences are the successful balance between and the merging of the TWO important elements of ELT; theory and practice. I came away from all of the talks and workshops* I attended with practical and concrete ideas that were also backed up by theory and evidence.

Listening to speakers ‘in the flesh’ and being engaged in TWO-way dialogues with speakers, exhibitioners and attendees at conferences continues to inspire and motivate me in a way that no other medium manages to and I, for one, will miss our ‘local’ TEA conferences greatly.

* Phil Keegan: Nurturing a Growth Mindset through Deliberate Practice and High Expectations

Jennifer Schumm Fauster: Learners’ responses to using literature to enhance their intercultural competence

Lyndsay Clandfield: The joy of texts – lesson planning with short texts from the web

Timothy Phillips: Using TED Talks and authentic video in the ELT classroom

Otto Weihs: The Mature Student – A Pedagogical Challenge in ELT

Louise Billroth_bioLouise Conrad-Billroth studied Speech Sciences and practiced as a Speech and Language Therapist in UK until she moved to Austria where she found her vocation in teaching. She currently specialises in EMP and ESAP and is mainly based at the IMC FH Krems.


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