A great period

by Richard Cooper
TESOL France Past President 1994
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If you are a past TESOL France President, that means you are also a past many things, from vice president to editor to convention organizer to perennial letter stuffer. Memories of TESOL France do not separate out easily into envelopes earmarking each of those various tasks, though to be fair I think I stuffed a lot of envelopes as president. Probably the single biggest difference between being a president of TESOL France and say a president of the United States is that you are not beholden to venal lobbyists or special action committees. Our core concern was how to invade the seemingly insular world of French teachers of English. TESOL France was an identity thing. It made no sense to be an organization made up largely of gungho expat members. The challenge seemingly was defining and communicating a sense of organizational identity that could embrace purpose and meaning within the business and vocation of English language teaching in France for all teachers of English. But really, bottomline, I just wanted to see more members. I looked at the numbers at TESOL Italy and Spain and couldn’t take my eyes off what the professional stature an economy of scale flush membership could mean. But it was not to be, not in the mid 90s at any rate. That didn’t stop us though from organizing excellent SIG events, maintaining a solid News, bringing out the TESOL Journal every year, working as teacher trainers and having a crackerjack convention.

During my tenure, I advocated synergy with like thinking, slightly overlapping teacher organizations operating in France. So, we co-sponsored events with IATEFL, APLIUT, MAFPEN, the Wheel and others. These were fun initiatives, and made for good networking back before speed-dating hit the fan.

I remember the talent of the colleagues on the Executive Committee, notably Gary Anderson, Elyane Comarteau, Jean Cureau, Mark Ennis, Valerie Hamori, Jacqueline Queniart, Danielle Savage, Linda Thalman and many others. Our principal benefactors, USIS and the British Council, were instrumental in so many ways. I remember with special gratitude the collegial interactions and generosity from those organizations, respectively with their ELT advisers Tom Miller and Roger Budd.

It has been years since my TESOL France presidency, years since I lived and worked in France, but I remember that period as a great one to test out ideas on how to work as a team for no pay, no glory, sustained only on goodwill and a will to develop professionalism. Best wishes, TESOL France, in your next quarter century. May you find, keep and grow your membership and a persistent value to teaching.

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