Warning – Excessive note-taking at an awesome ELT conference may lead to undesirable side effects, ranging in severity and scope. The following “treatment” may be taken prior to the conference , as “preventive medicine”, or after the first conference day of several in order to alleviate existing symptoms.
Possible side effects of untreated excessive note-taking
Excessive note-taking may seriously impair a teacher’s ability to digest new information. The act of keeping the eyes glued to the notebook /screen during an entire lecture can result in:
- missing the fine points of nuance, which are expressed in mimicry and body language
- inability to properly take in visual materials, viewed at a brief glance.
- constant tension – hyper-state of alertness due to trying to keep up with every word the speaker says.
- inability to focus on the main idea to be implemented, not on the specific details (which cannot be relevant for every class).
- feelings of irritability.
- LOSS OF ABILITY TO ENJOY THE CONFERENCE!
The BUDDY METHOD of Treatment
Stage one – Find “a conference buddy”
If you haven’t arrived at the conference with one prepared in advance, simply introduce yourself (with a smile!) to the teachers sitting near you before the first session begins. The attendees are not a group of random people – these are ELT teachers who made the effort to attend the conference because they want to benefit from it, just like you. Having several “conference buddies” works too.
Stage two – Talk Sessions
Arrange to meet with your “conference buddy” over lunch, on the commute home (if relevant) or perhaps skip a certain session slot. When you know you will be soon be briefly discussing what you just heard, you will find that jotting down key ideas, phrases, links will be enough. This matters because after you discuss what you heard, you “digest” it better and your brain can begin utilizing the information in order to make connections with your classroom reality.
Or in other words, you will probably never find (or bother to look at) all your conference notes three months from now. But if you discuss what you heard with someone it will leave a helpful “residue” in your brain.
Stage Three – Division of Labor
If coming home from a conference with a file (handwritten or digital) of notes is important to you, divide the sessions with your “conference buddy”. In each session one of you slows down, focuses on listening, looking (and feeling!) while the other takes notes. The “listener” can gently nudge the “note-taker” when there is a good visual stimulus he/she really must stop and look at. When you talk about the sessions afterwards, the one who was the note-taker can add information the listener took in and the note taker missed.
The “listener” is also in charge of prying the pen out of his/her buddy’s hand when the speaker has just given the link to where the entire talk can be viewed at any time.
Stage Four – Let Your “Conference Buddy” Drag You to a Session You Didn’t plan on attending.
Obviously, you won’t want to take notes during a session which is, theoretically, not relevant for you (perhaps it focuses on teaching younger learners than those you teach or is more suitable for private lessons while you teach classes). Focus on watching the speaker – what he/she said might not be particularly useful to you. However, how the material was presented to a roomful of adults and how the speaker drew the listeners into the topic might just spark some amazing ideas in your head as how to present something to your own students.
All of that can happen in your head without writing down a single thing.
IMPORTANT DOSAGE NOTES:
The “BUDDY METHOD” of treatment can be used repeatedly at multiple conferences without any negative side effects. It is free and available for ELT teachers around the world at all times. Frequent users of the method often exhibit tendencies to share the method, though the frequency of this phenomenon has not been documented.