TESOL France was wonderful. So warm and wonderful. Could we please do that again as soon as possible. Why? Why have we all spoken, chatted, blogged and tweeted about it non-stop? It was wonderful for a few reasons; the main one being the unbelievable privilege of sharing the same space as some of the top educators in the world today and realising what (this is the last time I’ll use the word) wonderful people they all are in real life.
It was also wonderful because it’s TESOL France. I attended a meeting in September (was it Beth?) where the details of the conference were ironed out over a few glasses of wine and Eric Halvorsen’s nothing-short-of-sensational squash story. I started to feel privileged there. You see, I research motivation, I spend a lot of my time trying to work out what makes people tick. Often this leads me to thoughts of “well will I ever figure anything out?” but that evening I saw motivation in all its glory, crystal clear and it was so clear that it was impossible to put into words. Bethany Cagnol, Ros Wright, Debbie West, Gillian Anderson and Eric Halvorsen met after their long days at their various jobs, making fireworks from scratch.As Vera Dickman pointed out when she introduced Stephen Brewer’s plenary, TESOL France has grown to brilliant heights and continues to do so from a little office hidden in the depths of Telecom Paris Tech.
I felt like I understood for the first time what intrinsic motivation meant. Csikszentmihalyi and Nakamura (1989) talk about this in terms of challenge and level of skill and Schumann (1997) brings a very interesting perspective on aptitude and the ceiling that it places on skill, phrases I’ve read many times and taken for granted. But that night I saw that intrinsic motivation, with it’s utterly unquantifiable yet extraordinarily powerful dimension of reward, shatters that ceiling and soars when teachers meet teachers. I saw infinite skill, infinite energy and infinite drive.
The talk I gave at TESOL France dealt with space, our space as teachers, our attitudes, our expectations and the framework within which these forces interact socially and cognitively. I compared teachers to baby elephants, so lovable, so powerful and so unaware of how powerful. And I asked my audience who their mama elephants were, because baby elephants learn to walk within their mama’s legs and we all have our pillars, four or more. They are part of our ever-growing space. Our ability to re-centre and focus is in knowing where they are and how we can connect with them.