What is home? Where do you call home? Where do you feel at home? Is that the place you live now? Is that the place you are originally from? Is that the place you work at?
This weekend, I had an amazing experience at an occasion that could be so overwhelming and even traumatic. For my first solo presentation, (I had more than few experiences to do presentation with some other fantastic teachers) I had more than 50 audience unexpectedly. Considering the quality of the product, Happy Valley, it is understandable that it got so much attention but it was from late afternoon and I am nobody in EFL world so that I assumed it would be rather a small number of audience might come. I asked some of my mates come and join my first presentation to cerebrate the new start but never imagined anything like that (nearly 70 audience) happens. It was so surreal and phenomenal to me. I couldn't believe my own eyes and needed to walk away from the room with full of nice smily and friendly faces. Outside of the room, I thought to myself, "What am I doing here? What if everyone got so disappointed? How I am gonna apologize to the audience who came to the presentation to learn something?" Then the panicky feeling swallowed this small being. I wasn't ready to stand up and talk to the people in front of me. They might have left their kids at home for the presentation. They might have many other better things to do. It would be a waste for them if they get nothing from this presentation because of me. All the panicky thought went through my mind and my heart started pounding so badly that I didn't know how to breath. I had to turned my back to the audience to take a deep deep breath.
At the moment I turned my back and walked a few more steps away from the door of the room, there was a tall man with a big warm smile on his face. Very gentle and assuring smile. I walked up to him and said, "I am not sure what I am doing here." He said, "They are not audience. They are your students. 3 or 4 years old. All you need to do is to go and teach them like usual. "
His words worked like a magic. My panic subsided and suddenly something exciting emerged. And I thought to myself, "Wow! That sounds fun. with nearly 70 kids in class? What kind of cool occasion it can be? Cool and awesome!" Instantly I was ready to play and learn with the audience. So, i turned around and looked at the lovely and smily my friends, students and bunch of amazing supporters who have encouraged me to present what I believe from my 17 years of experience with amazing kids. I started to remember all the rosy-cheeked cute children I had. In my mind, they were smiling and cheering me to do the best I could. The last person I caught with my eyes was my partner, quietly standing at one corner of the room with the little shy smile on his face. Then I heard his words from the previous night, "You would be fantastic." I went irritatedly, "How do you know?" But he said, " I just know." Honestly at that point, it didn't sound so promising but at the moment I caught his eyes as I was introduced as a presenter for Happy Valley, his words also got me do the best I could.
After the first song Hello was introduced, I knew how lovely the audience was and was sure that I could count on them to learn something from the presentation slides even without me. Even though my mouth was somehow so dried that I seriously thought my lips would stuck on my front teeth and I would look ridiculously funny in the first five minutes, I felt rather excited than panicked. With fantastic helps from the audience, once in a life time superb performance of my partner and his co-auther/ good mate and of course the great support from the Happy Valley team, the presentation went extremely better than I expected. I truly felt the power of collective kindness and positive vibe. I was no longer the presenter, I was a participant of a big happy learning event.
What I learned from this experience is that the presenter's role for this kind of educational event is to facilitate a space where all the fantastically enthusiastic teachers would meet others and collaborate their skills and talents to improve our practice. A presenter is a participant of the event and her work is to set up the ground where all the audience can work together.
My partner and other fantastic presenters I have met have showed me so that I was familiar with the concept but this time I really understand the role of presenter from my experience. It is the same as my ideal teacher. It is still easier said than done matter for this newbie. I guess all I can do is to do the best I can and learn from the other participants whether I am with my little learners or big learners.
If the definition of home is somewhere you feel secure and relaxed and a place you are from, my home is a classroom where I can collaborate with other participants to find something new and unexpected about the world we all share.
By talking, mingling and connecting with kindred spirits, a cafe, a restaurant, an apartment room, a corner of a town can be a classroom / our home like my favorite singer, Phillip Phillips sings,
"You are not alone cuz I 'm gonna make this place your home."