Little teacher me in the big ELT World (by Yitzha Sarwono)

Note from Barb: I know that attending an international conference is a major decision for teachers — big conferences tend to require a serious investment of both time and money. Since some of you may be facing similar decisions, I thought you might appreciate Yitzha’s reflections about her first international conference experience.

My reflections about Jalt 2012

When I found out that I was going to Jalt 2012 in Hamamatsu, Japan, my first reaction was jumping up and down for I was so excited! Then I froze! Geez, what would someone like me be doing there? I mean, Jalt would be my very first international conference ever! I’ve been to national conferences in Indonesia before, the last was JELTA in September. But of course, going to a conference full of people who speak the same language and are similar to you in a lot of ways is totally different from going to a conference where you’d see many people from many countries with different backgrounds and different teaching conditions too. But I wasn’t going to worry about that; I was more worried about my part of a presentation, which was about activities for teaching critical thinking to young learners.

workshop on critical thinking for YLs

Workshop on critical thinking for YLs

As soon as I arrived in Japan, I sensed a different atmosphere than what I’d experienced at conferences in Indonesia. First of all, everything had been organized nicely! The conference handbook was filled with a lot of information to help you to decide which workshops or talks you’d want to go to, as well as other information you’d need during the conference.

at the welcome reception for JALT 2012

At the welcome reception for JALT 2012

If I have to tell you what fascinated me the most about the conference, aside form the various incredible presentations, it was the participants there! Everyone was a smile away! You literally could talk to anybody there, and everybody was not only very kind but also willing to share with you their point of view, as well as interested in listening to your opinion too. Nobody was too good for anybody else nor unwilling to engage themselves in conversation. This is so different from my experience in attending conferences in Indonesia where everyone would most likely be too shy to ever involve themselves in a discussion with new people and tend to stick with their trusted friends.

Meeting Michael and Josette

Meeting Michael and Josette

On the first night of JALT, during the Oxford University Press welcome party, Tim Thompson (@timknowsefl) challenged me to get at least 20 name cards which at that time, I found very frightening to do. How would I start any conversation and get those name cards? Who would want to talk to a little Kindergarten teacher like me? But as soon as the conference kicked off, I learnt that it wasn’t an impossible mission like I thought because everyone welcomed the opportunity to share knowledge and stories about themselves and what they do. And I jumped into as many conversations as I could. I didn’t want to miss any opportunity to get to know all these fabulous people and their fantastic work! And just like that, I went from being someone who was afraid of not being able to fit herself to the environment to someone who was ready and eager to talk and share my opinion and experiences with everyone. I also learnt that all teachers matter, whether you’re teaching Kindergarten or University and we were all there for the same reason: Personal Development. And now I have many new names to put into my PLN list! I don’t think I could mention them one by one but I do hope they know that I am grateful for having them on my list.

At the iTDi Breaking Rules Pecha Kucha night

At the iTDi Breaking Rules Pecha Kucha night

Oh and yeah, I got 28 name cards by the end of the conference and I’m happy to say that I’ve sent an email to each of them to tell them how happy I was to have met and learnt from them all and hope that we can stay connected, both professionally and personally. I must thank iTDi and especially Barbara Sakamoto and Marco Brazil, who were so kind to me during and while preparing for the conference, as well as Tim Thompson who with his challenge has shown me the true meaning of PLN.

Note: This article by Yitzha Sarwono originally appeared as a guest post on Teaching Village and is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 License. If you wish to share it you must re-publish it “as is”, and retain any credits, acknowledgements, and hyperlinks within it.

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15 Responses

  1. Barbara says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Icha! I hope to see you at more international conferences in the future 🙂

  2. Jim George says:

    Great read & would love to share (re-post) on the JALT Conference blog. May I (observing yr criteria above?


  3. Yitzha Sarwono says:

    Hi Barb ^^
    Thank you so much for posting this. Always an honor to contribute here.

    Hi Jim
    Thank you so much for reading it. I’d be so happy to have you share this on JALT conference blog.


  4. Chiew says:

    Congrats, Icha! How I envy you! 🙂

    • Yitzha Sarwono says:

      oh Chiew! Thanks a lot!
      When are you gonna come and visit me? Barb will come back to visit Indonesia next year you know 😉


  5. Vicky Loras says:

    Hi Icha!

    How wonderful to wrote your reflection on the JALT Conference! A very vibrant account, from the heart. I love how you say that what binds us all is personal development.

    As I mentioned on Facebook, I know how you mean the title but I do not agree ; ) No way are you little, in any way! I admire you!

    Keep up being super,

    • Icha Sarwono says:

      Thank you thank you thank you so much dear! You sure are super sis!

      Well, given the fact that I am only 154 cm, so yeah…. I am ‘a little teacher’ there 😉 . But thanks so much. You do know I look up to you big time!


  6. Debbie says:

    Hi Icha!
    So nice to read about your experience in Japan. I love how well you describe what it has meant to you, your feelings and emotions and I’m sure it will bring great new things to you.
    I must add that “our team” (feel part of this family already) are so warm, and awesome!
    Just lovely Icha! Big young lady!

    • Icha Sarwono says:

      Hi Debbie!

      So happy to be part of this family! Thank you so much for your lovely comment here!

      aza aza smiling here

      big hugs

  7. David says:


    A very inspiring post for other teachers – almost like a beam of light to lead them into the light of community, professional commonality. It’s all a journey and better with others by our side. We are all little and small is so beautiful….truly.

    I hope Michael didn’t bear hug you – he could break something! I’d never call him small.


    • Icha Sarwono says:

      Hi David!
      Thanks for your appreciation towards my post here.
      I have no idea that people would see me beyond my small size really 😀

      Oh. Mike gave a bear hug, but nothing that I could not handle really 🙂

      Thanks again

  8. arjana says:

    Dear Icha,
    you’re such a wonderful teacher and person and I hope that I’ll soon have a chance to meet you f2f too.
    Warm hugs

    • Icha Sarwono says:

      Arjana dear
      It will be a great pleasure and honor to see you finally one day and I’m hoping it will happen sometimes soon.

      Big bear hug!


  9. AnnLoseva says:

    Hey Icha!

    Finally I made it to the comment on your marvellous post. I can second all the above-mentioned opinions, first of all)) you’ve had what looks like incredible time and experience, and you so much deserve it in every single way. I know I personally could learn lots from you.)

    I understand your point about a different atmosphere at a local conference, it was true for me as well. More than those points you mentioned, you’re being judged all the time. It’s in the air, it does not come from all participants of course, but several times I heard in the corridors some unfavourable remarks about some presenters.

    I hope to meet you some day, I really do!)

    Rock on, girl=)

    Best from Msk,

  1. March 27, 2014

    […] Yitza Sarwono reflects on her experience at JALT in 2012.  […]