In your hands

My life as a teacher of English and other curiosities

My weekend at ISTEK


Last year, while I was watching on line the 1st ISTEK International ELT Conference, I promised myself I would be there at the second one. This year I made that promise come true! And I went there and I had the most fantastic time.

I am not very experienced in international conferences, this was actually my third one but it has certainly been the best so far. And the interesting thing is that people who have been to many conferences agree with this opinion. Maybe because it is a manageable conference, where you can attend interesting lectures and workshops and at the same time actually meet people, interact with them and form friendships and connections.
The program of the conference was really enriching and innovative but what was even more satisfying were the discussions that were taking place after each talk or workshop during breakfast, lunch or dinner!
So because I am still intoxicated by Istanbul and its atmosphere let me just list the highlights of this conference as I experienced it.

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– The private phonetics lesson by Dede Wilson during breakfast. Priceless. I have already used one of her activities to the enjoyment of my students.
– The secret of Shelly Terrell and how she manages to do so many things in her life. I am going to reveal all: Shelly hardly sleeps!
– The amazing stories Jan Blake told to a full auditorium and how she engaged her 1000-people audience into acting out sounds and words and phrases. Nobody was afraid to seem silly or childish; we all enjoyed it and admired her talent and commitment.
– The even more amazing bits of her life Jan narrated to us, while walking in Gulhane Park, on the way to catch a boat.
– Giving a short interview to Mark Andrews, our never tiring Roving Reporter.
– Tweeting live during the plenary talks and sitting next to different people each time and learning from them. Thanks Valentina for Hootsuite quick lesson!


– The discussion with Evridiki on the bus back to Taksim. Vital issues came up: Are (our) ELT gurus getting older or is it just that we are getting more critical of them? Is Facebook as appreciated as twitter or is there a condescending attitude towards it? Do teenage daughters really get dizzy on buses or are they just trying to attract our attention?
– The story of how Nicky’s daughter taught herself to play the guitar through YouTube.
– The late night dinner with delicious pizza we ordered at the dormitory after PechaKucha night. Greek people are infamous late eaters and we proved our reputation right. The good thing was leftover pizza saved us from starvation the next day: anxious for our workshop, Marina and me skipped lunch and coffee and snacks. Thank (any) god for cold pizza!
– Our dancing in Bosphorus!
– Meeting with Joel and Lenka and Julie and discussing our eurolib project, a project I would like to have taken part in, from the beginning. Thank you Joel from bringing me in!
– Joel’s invention of a fountain game!
– Burcu’s organizing, coordinating, motivating and inspiring abilities! What a woman!
– Hospitality at the Conference – we were dined and wined so well we felt like distinguished guests.
– David Hill’s talk on creativity in the classroom. An old skool talk that showed how a teacher can be absolutely captivating even without slides.
– Ania’s workshop on drilling was funny and demanding at the same time! Hard work trying to learn Polish!
– Meeting Arjana, Julie, Eva, Joel, Evridiki, Mark, Rakesh, Ed, Mike, David, Luke, Claire, Elizabeth, Ilia, Ania, Mark, Nick, Helen, Shirley, for the first time in real life. Most of them I had met on line before and real life just proved that the friendships we form on line are usually with like minded people whom we would like to meet face to face as well.

– Meeting Shelly, Petra, Marisa, Jamie, Gavin, Nicky, Ken, Dede, Sue, Lindsay, Russell, Ozge, Beyza, Burcu, again. I had only met them last year briefly but they already felt like good friends!
– Meeting Sebnem again and sharing her joy about her talented 15-year-old daughter whose film premiered that week in Istanbul!
– Talking with Russell Stunnard and proving once more what a small world this is: we managed to find when our paths had crossed again, many years ago in Seville and we even have a common acquaintance!
– Working with my school advisor, mentor and friend Marina. Thank you for everything!
– Above all: Magnetic, enchanting, colourful, intoxicating Istanbul, metropolis of the south. Teşekkürler!

UPDATED: You can find more accounts about what this phenomenal conference was like here:

David Dogson: 6 Reflections from ISTEK

Mark Andrews: Our star roving reporter keeps uploading videos and reviews from the conference even a week later

(the video we made with Mark on the boat in Bosporus is actually here)



  1. Dear Anna,

    I love reading about ISTEK- it makes me realise that this dream weekend has really happened!
    Thank you for this lovely post and coming to my workshop- a pleasure to have you there.
    Now you can hit Poland with your brand new knowledge of Polish! 🙂

    It was amazing to meet you at ISTEK and spend the fabulous weekend with you.
    Look forward to meeting you soon.

    ISTEK 2011- I’ll never forget.
    ISTEK 2013- hurry up, please!

    See you on Twitter Anna.

    all the best,
    Pixie Ania 🙂

  2. It was great meeting you too Ania!

  3. Hi Anna!

    Love your post a lot, it is very friendly and expressive.
    I am very happy I met you in person!
    Hope to meet again soon but this time longer. 🙂

    Filakia polla apo tin poli,

  4. Dear Anna,

    What a lovely post. It was great to meet you in person. I hope we will have more time to chat next time so see you very soon.
    Eva 🙂

  5. These ISTEK summaries get better and better. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do anything to a similar level to do it justice, and difficult since it was so fleeting for me!

    Still, I get to ‘live’ the rest of ISTEK through wonderful posts like yours, Anna, and Facebook photos, Mark’s amazing interviews as the roving reporter =)

    It was great to meet you for the first time, but I hope the next time can be a bit more relaxed and we can have a good chat!

  6. Dear Anna,
    thank you so much for this wonderful post. You know, for me the most precious moments of the conference were those when I hugged you and my other twitter buddies who I had known only from the virtual world, but it felt as if we had been close friends for ages. A glorious feeling, indeed:-)
    all the best

  7. Thank you all for kind words. I am sitting in my kitchen again, and I literally have goosebumps all over reading your comments! And as the days go by I keep remembering more moments that made this conference so special!
    I’m sorry if I didn’t mention everybody in the post but you were all important.
    Evridiki – what a volcano you are! I’ll never forget you!
    Eva, thanks for everything and especially for that lift on Monday night!
    Mike I know what you mean, you were always there opposite me, at breakfast but we seem to be talking more now we got back home! Next time we’ll correct that.
    Arjana, it was the same for me when we hugged on Friday night!

  8. Anna – it’s great to read you…. Talk about intoxicated! It really was a special weekend – thanks for bringing it all together, you are such a bubble of joy
    Vive ISTEK 🙂

  9. Pingback: Κωνσταντινούπολη « Βιβλία και ξερό ψωμί

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