My Experience as an “Ex-Com”

Bill Stowe
Past Officer (Advertising & Membership) 1993-1994
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I have been asked to write a few lines about my experience as an “Ex-Com” which has an ominous ring to it but only means I once volunteered some of my time for the Association.

I got involved in TESOL France immediately upon my arrival here in 1992.  I found a great group of people working for the organization and was pleased with the idea of grafting myself onto this fine troupe including:
  • Hal Surguine, newly elected President, Groucho Marx look-alike and a great leader
  • Rick Cooper, a specialist in using video in the EFL classroom and who had for an address a peniche on the Seine
  • Gary Anderson in charge of selling advertising for the colloques and publications
  • Linda Thalman who had her own website “Volterre” (still exists) dedicated to teachers in France. In those days that was a pretty exotic pastime and the links were precious!
  • Ian Bell, Mr. TOEIC, a test which few people used at the time
  • Tom Miller, more than just a State Department policy wog. Tom minded the precious US Embassy teacher’s resources until the government closed it down. I’ll never forget what he said about us teachers spending too much time concentrating on “faux amis” in the English language and not enough on “vrais amis”.

Somehow I found myself helping Gary. One of my great interests as a new teacher was to learn what resources were available on the market. What better way to do that than to have to regularly irritate the book and test merchants with my pitch to buy ad space in the new TESOL Newsletter (yes there once was a time when it didn’t exist!). My wife was amazed at my bravery - a lot of my schmoozing had to be done on the telephone and in my broken French.

Somehow “helping” became “being responsible for” and I also volunteered to “help with” Membership. One day I was led to a hole of an office at Télécom Paris and told that was the TESOL France office and that it was generously donated by Telecom ParisTech to us. Then I was told that the list of members existed on a program called db4 and you had to be an engineer, or almost, to add a new line to it (the Telecom ParisTech students graciously donated some of their time too! Let’s never forget the TESOL France-Telecom ParisTech ties as they live on very strongly today!)

Then someone suggested we buy something called a spreadsheet. You have to remember the context. The computer I had in my home I had bought in 1987 as a “bargain”. For $1,500 (sic) I got an Apple Mac with NO hard disk, a printer and the software to run it and print papers. Each time you booted up you had to put in a diskette to load the operating system then put in another diskette with your “Microsoft Word for Macintosh” software. I didn't know what the hell a spreadsheet was or was supposed to do. Another great member-helper, Denny Packard, tried to explain but it was a bit beyond my ken. Fortunately? I had to move out of town before I had to buy the software so I don't know what they did purchase. Nowadays everyone uses Microsoft Excel and doesn’t think twice. TESOL France’s database is now in such a format and exploitable in ways I didn’t dream of it when I first saw it in the bowels of TelecomParis Tech.
  • In a nutshell, TESOL France to me gave me the chance to:
  • learn about teaching materials in the French market
  • improve my French by hounding Hachette, Hatier
  • improve my British by hounding Oxford, Prentice Hall, Cambridge, etc.
  • learn a bit about computers
  • learn a lot about teaching by attending conferences and talking to members
  • network with some high-flyers in the domain. As an aside, Hal found me the full-time job that kept me in France at an Engineering school in Laval (Mayenne)
  • have some great times. People attracted to this profession are good people. And people who dedicate their personal time to learn and to help others are gifts to us.

Treat the current and future TESOL France staff like angels because that is what they are.

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