Attending the CATESOL OC Chapter Spring 2021 Workshop and Panel Discussion: A Report by Esra Eldem

Esra EldemAfter receiving an announcement email from my graduate advisor two months ago, I submitted an online application and fortunately gained the opportunity to become a recipient of the CATESOL OC Graduate Student Initiative (GSI) Award for Spring 2021. In addition to a free CATESOL student membership and free admission to the CATESOL OC Chapter’s workshop event, this award provided me with the amazing opportunity to more closely learn about the TESOL profession and to establish network with various teachers and scholars. In this report, I will primarily discuss my experiences throughout the event, which took place on February 27, 2021.

The CATESOL OC Chapter Workshop and Panel Discussion event was held online this year due to the pandemic. Although online events may sometimes seem to decrease the interaction among the audience, this was not the case for this event. The content and speakers as well as the games and discussions in the breakout rooms were all so intriguing that I did not even realize how fast time went by during the 4-hour program.

The CATESOL OC Chapter’s workshop and panel discussion mainly focused on the topic of online teaching and learning environments, and, particularly, how to plan more dynamic lessons on Zoom. The program started with a fascinating talk by the featured speaker, Savyonne Steindler. Through the presentation by Savyonne Steindler, I learned about various online games and activities specially tailored to the needs of college-level ESL learners. The games ranged from taboo and tic tac toe to information gaps, find someone who, and jigsaws. My background as a TESOL major mainly revolved around learning how to teach unplugged, which is slightly different from what we have to do for the ever-changing needs of learners especially due to the pandemic. For most of the online games that Savyonne Steindler shared with us, I have had experiences and practices only in face-to-face settings. Therefore, I was unsure about how I could manage an online class and create an engaging learning environment. The whole-class and group activities shared by Savyonne Steindler, however, which could be adapted for various classes and proficiency levels, helped me feel more comfortable and confident, as I learned that there is a wide variety of options that I can make use of once I start to teach.

The rest of the program involved a panel, a second presentation, and a series of poster/flipgrid presentations that commonly addressed the challenges in Zoom classroom settings and recommendations for online teaching. During this time, I also had the opportunity to discuss with several professors about my experiences regarding the challenges of online teaching, particularly technical issues that may arise. Gaining the chance to discuss with professors about ESL classes motivated me to gain more knowledge and professionality besides getting more hands-on experience and doing more research on online classes.

Although I currently do not work with ESL learners, I will be applying for ESL instructor positions in the near future in community-based classes. The ideas and activities I learned throughout the event have inspired me to serve my students by creating a more engaging environment in the virtual setting, which I do not see as a barrier to effective teaching anymore. With the help of this event, I believe I can better tailor my classes based on the needs of my students as long as I brainstorm and plan well to make use of available tools and resources.

Besides the great experience of attending this wonderful event, getting free access to the Slangman digital online resource through opportunity drawing was also a very rewarding part! I highly recommend every graduate student in the TESOL field to join and enjoy the amazing atmosphere of ESL discussions and meetings with the experts in the field through CATESOL OC Chapter events.