The QI 2011 Experience: A Newbie’s Perspective (Part 2)

Now that I’m back home I’ve had some time and space to reflect on the rest of the QI experience, starting with my paper presentation…

On the day of the presentation I was a nervous wreck. Normally I’m ok with nerves but today, it was overwhelming to the point where I found myself standing near the doorway of the room I was to present in for at least 10 minutes, contemplating whether to do a runner. The minutes ticked by and as I fought down my panic the rational, slightly angry side, emerged, “Eljee, you didn’t endure a 9 hour plane ride from hell just to give up now!

And with that, I entered the room.

It was empty, apart from the other presenters, and to my delight, stayed empty for the next 5 minutes. I think the other presenters sensed my nervousness and were kind enough to let me chatter on about…the weather *retrospectively places head in hands*. As the room began to fill up I could feel my body tense up, again. Then one of the main speakers of the conference entered the room and I was thrown into dismay. There ended up being around 35 people in the room and I my mind was hoping against hope that the electricity would cut so that I wouldn’t have to present. But instead the session went underway and I tried to relax during the first two presentations.  Then it was my turn. I smiled, took a deep breath, and started.

Ok. Good, I got through the beginning. Keep going. Look up. Keep going. Smile, oh go back to where you left off. Quick. How much time do I got? Oh, they’re nodding. Good. Good. Keep going. Almost there. And…end!

My immediate reaction was one of relief.  I did it!  I could physically feel my muscles relax one by one as I sat through the last presentation.

And then…Q & A! In my session all the presenters gave their papers in one go and Q & A was left at the end. I quite liked this format because being on the receiving end of the questions it was nice not to be put on the spot immediately after my presentation. The chair, in this format, fielded the questions for the participants and monitored the time carefully so that we could get through as many questions as possible in the 12 minutes remaining out of the 80.  Most of the questions were directed at 2 of the other speakers and I was more than glad to sit back and listen to how they answered and addressed the questions – which often consisted of trying to figure out what the question was in the first place!

I got 2 questions, the first was more a comment which came from the main speaker (!!!) who complimented me on bringing up the issue of recognising other types of Englishes. The only question I received, however, was a doozy, “When you use the term “standard English” do you mean “White English?”… …Hmm, good question. And how does one go about answering this. The thoughts that flashed in my mind were:

  • Does their understanding of White English have to do with the Ebonics debate?
  • Whiteness as a linguistic label for race?
  • This question is really hard!
  • What exactly do they mean by “White”?
  • I need beer.

I then ignored all these thoughts and went on to describe how “standard English” is generally understood in the TESOL industry and how “White English” is a particular view that I would need to look more into – an honest answer. I figured why try to blag it?

I left that session feeling relief tinged with some disappointment. I felt not only did I rush through my presentation but there was so much more that I wanted to say! More I wanted to add! More that I could have/should have/would have done. I was originally given 20 minutes, which was cut down to 8 as there were 6 presenters planned in the 80-minute session. On the day only 4 (including me) presented, which amounted to 15 each (plus Q &A). Now planning a presentation with that many variables takes some flexibility and on-the-spot innovation – none of which I quite possess at this point in time. I could have elaborated on some of my presentation, which amounted to 12 minutes on the day, but I stuck with “the plan” that I had. Doing this made me feel much more confident about my presentation and, to be honest, I like having the security of planning out a presentation to a tee. Some people like to wing it but I, for one, don’t have that kind of confidence to take the risk at an international conference – yet.

The QI 2011 Experience: A Newbie’s Perspective (Part 1)

This was originally written 21 May, 2011 after my first day at QI.  Reflections on my paper presentation to follow…

I’m sitting outside in the cool of the evening on a small table near to where I’m staying.  The occasional car breaks the calm and the quite rustle of trees in full bloom is a reassuring sound.

The scene I’ve described is quite the opposite of the day I just had.  Manic, intense, challenging, constant, vibrant and, well, busy.  It’s been a lot to take in and in this space I’m going to attempt to capture on paper the jumble of thoughts and emotions I’ve got.

The first thing that comes to mind is what exactly do I understand “proper” scholarship to be?  The presentation of research, by in large at most conferences, are what might be considered the norm – an abstract plus a few power point slides with 15 minutes or so to present a situation-problem-resolution-evaluation (think Hoey) summary of a study; Q and A follows and then applause.  This form of presenting works for many and is, usually, an effective way of dissemination information.

Coming to QI I was witness to several different types of presentations that challenged my own assumptions of what an effective scholarly presentation entails.  One particular presentation that springs to mind was Lisa Yvette William-White’s presentation, which I found exceptionally refreshing and challenging at the same time.  It was evident that the content of her paper was thoroughly researched, referenced and theorised in which all this complexity was embedded in a creative, spoken-word performance full of passion and wit.  This was the first of this type of presentation that I witnessed today and time and time again, I was challenged with my own assumptions of what a “proper” paper should look like.  I acknowledge that this type of performance may not be an appropriate vehicle of disseminating research but all the same, it was refreshing to see something different.  Beyond the novelty, and beyond the performance there was a point, a message that was made clear.  And I think this is why I remembered that paper because I actively listened.

With all this newness I find myself getting overwhelmed by the sheer scale and energy of the conference.  People want to talk and discuss things.  I lost count of the number of times I’ve summarised my research to complete strangers and they, in turn, do the same. I found the curiosity to find out about others and what they’re researching exceptionally positive. But was more the questions that followed after “So what’s your research about?” that I found tiring – in a good way.

I found the questions much more focused on theoretical aspects of my research rather than the methodology.  Many people wanted to know why as well as the view/position/framework that I was coming from.  For those that spoke to me, theory was the very foundation of doing qualitative inquiry.  And this getting-to-know-you chat made me realise that I can’t quite articulate what my theoretical roots are, and moreover, I should get to work on it.

Conference experiences 2011 : Getting to QI (Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA)

You’d think that travelling across the world is really just about getting from A to B. Or at least in theory. So why is it that someone like me who does the cross-Atlantic trip at least once every 18 months just can’t keep it simple?

Urbana-Champaign is located about 4 hours from Chicago and, while that sounds reasonable, the journey was quite the opposite. The plane was late taking off from Manchester, which was a crazy flight considering it was windy enough to rattle the plane. At 9am. Being late meant making my connection a bit challenging as I didn’t realise that I had to go through security, again, at Amsterdam. Good thing that plane was late too! Being one of those “double-decker” kind of planes takes time to prep.

Oh KLM, you do rock my world. Next to JAL you are seriously the coolest airline to fly with. Great staff that are actually nice! And good food (for plane food, I mean I had pine nuts in my couscous salad?!). But that wasn’t the kicker. To add to the joy of having over 25 movies too choose from to amuse you for 9 hours (for those of us who can’t sleep) you could learn another language.

Seriously. You could choose from no less than 10 different languages to learn. Ok so it’s really beginners basic provided by Berlitz but you could learn on the plane. I chose to brush up on my Tagalog. And you know you’re tired when, around the 7th hour, you find gap-fills highly amusing.

No, despite all that, it’s always my fellow passengers that let me down. I’m not sure what it is about airline travel that brings out the weirdos. I put it down to the altitude. And the lack of sleep. Usually it’s just one or two groups of people that suffer from one but this time it was everyone. Because of two unfortunate souls who seemed to have the worst case of obscene diarrhoea most of the passengers suffered like me, including the crazy woman in leather who let her toddler kick the seat in front of her whilst talking, loudly, to her bag and the poor wailing baby with bickering parents in matching haircuts.

9 hours, trapped in a plane, with nowhere to go.

It was only when I realised that could have easily been me sitting beside one of the two invalids that I got over my raging frustration and laughed. Literally out loud to myself. I don’t think I was alone in that respect!

Sadly when the plane arrived, I had another 2 1/2 wait until my 4 1/2 journey to Urbana on a bus whose windows rattled all…the…way. I try not to think about that part. Needless to say, by the time I arrived, I was very, VERY happy to go to bed.