It is a credit to the Cambodian people that they are able to stage such a successful international event so soon after emerging on to the world stage in terms of language teaching. English wasn't even taught in Cambodia until 1991.
The venues used for CamTESOL were the plush surroundings of the Cambodiana Hotel, where we met for the presenters' cocktail party on the Friday night and the gala dinner on the Saturday, and the rather more basic National Institute of Education. Apart from the main hall, this collection of tired, rather run-down buildings lacking in any modern conveniences did not at first sight seem conducive to ground-breaking, inspirational teaching and learning experiences. In reality, however, they were perfect. For those of us coming from rather more modern and well-resourced facilities abroad, the venue was a constant reminder of the normal circumstances in which Cambodian teachers work and, stripped of the technology and other 'mod-cons' we take for granted, we were forced to go back to basics and really think about the audience we were addressing and, also, listen to those who were teaching us. The enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge shown by the Cambodian teachers and trainee teachers was infectious and made the whole conference a joyful experience, despite the lowly surroundings.
For me personally, the conference was special because, as well as giving me the opportunity to meet with previously unknown colleagues from around the world, it also brought me face-to-face, for the first time, with several members of my PLN with whom I have been collaborating online for the past couple of years. I presented with one of them, Lesley Cioccarelli, (I will write about this in another blogpost) and really enjoyed the time I spent with her and another 'virtual' colleague, Mike Griffin.
It was also good to exchange ideas with many participants, both Vietnamese and other nationalities, who, like me, are currently working in Vietnam. I enjoyed being able to raise the profile of my institution, Eastern International University, by showing photos and explaining what our goals are. I was also able to seek advice from all kinds of people about how best we can achieve these aims.
The plenary speakers at the conference were Professor Paul Nation and Dr Richmond Stroupe, both of whom gave us plenty of food for thought. Paul Nation's speech was particularly interesting - I will write it up in another post.
For the vast majority of Cambodian teachers and trainee teachers in attendance, it was clear that the methodology sessions were the most popular. They were desperate for ideas they could use straight away in their classrooms. This observation set me thinking about what I want to present on at CamTESOL 2014 because, yes, I intend to be there!! The date is already in my diary!!