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I’m in Toronto, playing the role of affiliate representative for Northern New England TESOL.

TESOL has a grand plan to stop worrying so much about quantity and start worrying more about quality of the organization and its relationship/responsiveness to its membership.

I was asked the question today (by SiOP co-creator Deborah Short–which probably should have clued me in that I was in the wrong meeting) of what it would take for me to become more involved in TESOL. It was right after I had added to the conversation that our affiliate membership ebbed and flowed with the location of the conference. Our people who have some allegiance to our group have little allegiance to the international organization.

I said we were lacking opportunities for leadership, that it was too hard to be accepted to present, that it was often too far from our immediate concerns and that we had no stake in the game.

TESOL does great things. And I’d love to take a leadership role and be more involved. But what effect does the organization have on what essentially is a rural program, even if my town likes to proclaim and maintain its spot as the biggest city in Vermont… I have applied for different positions. I have put in many proposals to present. I have requested to be part of teams. Didn’t happen.

And I really am alone in my need to connect, to get out of my state, to see what the bigger picture really is. None of my colleagues in my district follow me in this quest.

I was sitting beside the president of Italy TESOL, and she is having a smaller scale problem to TESOL’s: membership is dropping. People don’t seem to see the relevance. Different states get different support and don’t see the need to be part of the affiliate.

So the question comes down to relevancy.

How do we make ourselves, our group, our greater goals relevant to others?

The affiliate meeting–where I was supposed to have gone–talked about just that. We need to not worry about the fish we want to catch (goal) but the bait we need to catch it. What does our membership (our state, our community, our district, our students, our parents) need to convince them that we are relevant?

That is such an amazing question.


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