For the first time in my career, I went to the ELT Freelancers’ Awayday in Oxford on 24th January. I’d seen the great feedback from the previous year and I was disappointed that I was too late to get a ticket.
However, my confidence had grown since then, and although my anxiety was still relatively high, I bought a ticket and looked forward to the day. The confidence, in part, came from attending the IATEFL Conference in Liverpool last year and I thought if I could manage that, then I could manage Oxford. In part the anxiety seems to stem from a traumatic 2017, which I probably still haven’t recovered from, but life continues. That’s a whole other post about how I got into freelancing and why I don’t teach anymore.
Anyway, since I’ve been freelancing for almost two years now (!), I thought I’d give the Awayday a shot.
What a great decision that was. Greeted with such a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, I started to relax - and indeed could see that other attendees were a little anxious too. They tended to be the ones furtively looking for someone to talk to. However, it didn’t take long for someone to talk to the quieter members and it made for a lovely event.
The speakers were well chosen and gave some exceedingly interesting and valuable insights. I thought the presentation by National Geographic Learning was a great start to the day and it was refreshing to see many loyal (and well-cared for) freelancers in the audience as well as part of the presentation. The next sessions looked at the role of the invisible editor, which I think resonated with many attendees - the research by Fiona Mackenzie and David Baker was fascinating and thoroughly worthwhile listening to. Jemma Hillyer presented the findings of the ELT Freelancers’ survey, which again was interesting for me as a relative ‘newbie’ (when do I stop describing myself like that?). It was surprising to see some of the fees people are charging.
Lunch was a surprise - I wasn’t expecting it to be so good, even though I have to apologise to the people that probably got my backside in their back while I was trying (very inelegantly) to sit down. After lunch were the springboard talks, which were rather short, but time restraints are understandable. Claire Hart was spectacular, speaking about the balance of life and work. The panel discussion again was interesting, but time seemed to limit the number of questions - not the organiser‘s fault at all. I think that there’s probably so much that could have been done and it’s lovely to see that there was more than enough input. Would be great if it was a two-day event! The bring-and-swap table is a great idea! I’d love to bring something next time, even if it is just chocolate like one lovely attendee did! I think it’s forward-thinking to be environmentally friendly on days like these.
Looking to next year, I’ll be there - and I may even attempt to speak. I spoke to so many lovely people and I could see that there were lots more that I didn’t speak to - something to rectify, I feel. If you were there and you’re reading this, please do say hello!
Thanks to all the speakers, Jemma, Helen and everyone I spoke to - and the hotel too. It was an extremely positive experience.