In mid-July, Ibeu-Rio hosted the 3rd Alumni, CTJ and Ibeu TEFL Conference. It was an extraordinary event with nearly 400 participants from the three binational centers and from other language programs, representing a variety of institutions and states.
My colleague Elisa Borges, Academic Superintendent of Ibeu, put together a flawlessly organized event in which everything ran smoothly from beginning to end. We also counted on the indispensable support of our sponsors. In two and a half days, we had the chance to choose among over 60 different presentations addressing a wide variety of topics.
My major role in the organization of the event (and also that of Silvia Correa, Academic Director of Alumni) was making sure my institution contributed with a good number of presentations and also encouraged teachers to participate in it. Sounds like a lot of hard work, right? Well, not really.
All I had to do was send a Call for Proposals to my academic staff and immediately receive applications from 36 presenters, divided into 25 different talks, workshops or discussion groups. My only real effort was to revise their proposals and organize the information to send to Ibeu. I didn’t have to nudge anyone. They just joined in naturally, eager to be part of an event taking place during their winter break.
That’s right. Not only did these wonderful and committed professionals use their free time in July to attend the two-and-a-half day event, but they also spent even more time preparing their presentations, all a huge success. Besides these 36 presenters, we also counted on the presence of 31 CTJ participants, totaling 67 educators.
This is an example from my institution that can be extrapolated to Ibeu and Alumni and also applied to the other participants from all over the country. In a wider sense, we can also wonder why we – Silvia, Elisa and myself – bother to do it. Why do we want to organize a joint even every two years? What do we gain from this after all?
I came back to Brasilia after the conference in complete awe and asking myself: why do we do it? Why are we willing to go the extra mile and engage in this type of professional development opportunity, even during our winter breaks, in some cases?
I found the answer to this question reading an interview in the July 15 edition of Veja Magazine with Paul Dolan, a London School of Economics professor who wrote the book Happiness by Design. Dolan is a behavioral economist who researches what makes people happy. Two of the main components of happiness, according to Dolan, are having a sense of purpose in life and fulfilling social relationships. Researching more about Dolan, I learned that he actually has a blog on the Psychology Today website. In one of his posts, he discusses how we need to balance pleasure and purpose in our lives. In another one about being happy at work, Dolan explains:
To get at whether or not your life is going well, I think we need to look beyond just pleasure. In Happiness by Design, I argue that we also need to understand how meaningful your experiences are—so whether they also feel worthwhile, fulfilling or purposeful. Happy lives will contain a balance of both pleasurable and purposeful experiences.
Dolan’s idea of happiness being related to having a sense of purpose and strong social bonds struck a chord in my search for an answer to why we are so eager to share ideas with likeminded professionals in conferences, despite the hard work and sometimes personal sacrifices this entails. We want to have a sense of purpose in our profession, to feel that we are making a contribution, that we matter. We don’t just want to go through the motions of teaching, spending our lives in automatic mode. We want our job to be fulfilling and worthwhile. We also want to create strong social bonds with people who have the same interests that we do, and that’s why the social events that are part of conferences are also so important to us. I, for one, like going to conferences for the people and fun as much as I enjoy them for the content, and after reading Dolan’s work, I feel more confident to admit this.
I can now safely say that we do it because it makes us happy!!!