In today’s post, LTS faculty Deborah Healey discusses the opportunities and benefits of taking the lead in professional organizations in the field. You can read more about Deborah Healey on a past blog post here.
Professional organizations like ORTESOL, ACTFL, and TESOL International Association are successful because they offer a variety of activities, networking, and support for their members. Volunteers with the organization provide the bulk of the support. They guide the organization and its activities. Volunteers are the backbone of annual conventions, for example, and most organization newsletters and websites have content provided by volunteers. These volunteers are both necessary and very visible parts of the organization. Organization leadership comes from the volunteers who have been active in the organization and the profession.
What does this mean for graduate students and other professionals in language teaching? It means that you can give to your profession and add to your resume by volunteering. This will help you move forward on a leadership path.
I’ve been part of the leadership of ORTESOL and TESOL at different times and in different ways. I’ve been the ORTESOL Newsletter editor, part of several TESOL Task Forces and a TESOL Interest Section Chair, and a member of the CALL Interest Section Steering Committee.
I am now on the Board of Directors of TESOL, making decisions about policy and governance for the association.
Being on the Board was not on my mind when I agreed to be ORTESOL Newsletter Editor, nor when I was on different Task Forces and involved in the Interest Section. Like most volunteers, I took part in those activities because they sounded interesting. They gave me great connections and good friends. My involvement has made me a better teacher and, overall, a more competent professional in the language teaching field. This involvement has also given me the opportunity to travel to international conferences as an invited speaker.
You can start on a path to leadership by doing many of the same things that you may be doing now. Write for your local affiliate/section of a professional organization (the ORTESOL Newsletter Editor would love to hear from you!). Present at a local and national conference (poster sessions are usually easiest to propose and have accepted). Volunteer to help with the local conference if it is nearby or with the national conference if you are planning to attend. People in the organization will notice your work. As you take on more responsibilities – because they seem interesting, of course – you will be on a leadership pathway that may take you to new and exciting places.