October 12, 2018
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Lilika Couri, TESOL Greece, Athens, Greece

TESOL Greece has been holding summer events for 18 years bringing together colleagues, friends and neighboring cultures to share special moments in a unique environment. One example, as expressed by Misty Adoniou (TESOL Greece Chair, 2000 - 2002) in a powerful and truthful way, describes her memories at one of TESOL Greece's Summer Events on the island of Lesbos.

One of my key aims for the conference was to build a relationship with INGED, the Turkish affiliate at the time. This is why we chose Molyvos.1] From the beach, you could literally see Turkey. It seemed an ideal metaphor for bringing the two associations together. We used our funding[2] to bring over approximately 20 teachers from Turkey. I remember about 15 local teachers from Lesbos attended, and then maybe another 20 from the Greek mainland made the journey for the event.

We stayed at a resort on the beach, some distance out of town, where we also held the seminars. To be honest, I remember the conversations more than the seminars. As we were all together, living, eating, learning, and swimming. We had lots of conversations. I remember one evening, as we ate some lovely Mytilenean food outside under the stars, we looked over towards the twinkling lights on the Turkish coast. One of our Turkish guests said ‘My family has a holiday home over there. In the summer we would visit when I was a child, and I would look in this direction and see the twinkling lights of the homes and wondered who lived there and what they were like.’ One of the local teachers laughed and said, ‘That’s exactly what I would think as I looked towards the Turkish coast. And now we know!,’ they both said laughing.

It seemed like such a powerful conference, not only because of what the teachers learned about teaching English, but also because of what they learned about each other, and it was English that had brought them together.

TESOL Greece (TG) was founded on January 30th, 1980, the fourth TESOL affiliate in Europe after TESOL Italy, TESOL Spain and TESOL Portugal. The association was legally approved by the Greek State in 1981, and the first AGA (Association's General Assembly) and Board of Directors elections were held in June 1981 in Athens. I had the honor of being TG's first elected chair.

Considering that TESOL Greece was a small association at the time, and the idea of nonprofit, nonunionized, volunteer associations was not the average Greek’s cup of tea, let alone, the average English teacher’s, TESOL Greece started BIG with an international two-and-a half day convention in Athens on May 2-4, 1980. For a number of years following that first event, TG organized an annual international convention in Athens and a 2-day event in Thessaloniki, Greece.

As the association grew, the individual Boards started fulfilling the founding members' goals and commitments, and, in many ways, dreams in regards to the mission and purpose of TESOL Greece. Organizing summer events was one of the most important commitments, as they were the ones (together with a number of monthly events outside Athens), that took TESOL closer to our colleagues in various parts of Greece, colleagues who for many reasons could not make it to the annual conventions.

And so, TG travelled to some of the most beautiful parts of the mainland as well as the islands of Greece: Kala Nera and Pelion in Magnissia; Chania in Crete; Corfu in the Ionian Sea; Syros and Paros in the Cyclades; Tzoumerka in Epirus; and Nafplion in the Peloponnese, as well as outside of Greece to Rome, Istanbul and Budapest.

Bicycling after the workshop in Nafplion, 2013

Group photo, Summer Event in Budapest, 2011

The format of the event has remained the same for eighteen years: in most cases, there is a three-day trip over a weekend in June. There is an organized tour, free time for the members to visit and have fun, and one whole afternoon-evening devoted to workshops/talks, conducted by invited speakers and followed by dinner in popular tavernas or restaurants recommended by the local members.

The local ELT community at each event location, both from the private sector and in some cases from the state sector, collaborates with the TG Board and often provides the funds for guided tours, information about local customs and entertainment, etc. For example, in Corfu in 2006, the PALSO Association of Foreign Language School Owners provided a guided tour of the old town of Corfu as well as a dance show by the Corfu Lykeio Ellinidon, In Tzoumerka, Epirus (2008), our local colleagues made all the arrangements for a rafting trip in the river Arachthos.

Group photo. Rafting in Arachthos, Summer Event in Tzoumerka, 2008

In Istanbul in 2009, Bahçeşehir University was our host, both for the workshops as well as for a fabulous cocktail party overlooking the Bosphorus.

End of workshop, joint event TG & Bacheshehir University, Istanbul, 2010

Over the years, some of the most renowned ELT personalities have been speakers at our summer events, such as Gülfem Aslan, Luke Prodromou and Herbert Puchta, as well as members and colleagues of international standing, some of them former chairs of TG: Misty Adoniou, Suzanne Antonaros, Malcom Mann, Nick Mantarakis, Agnes Alice Mariakaki, Vicky Megas, Jeanne Perrett, Michael Robbs, Christina Bakopoulou-Rousso and others.

Since 2000, all of the summer events have provided professional development, have enhanced participant creativity, and have updated us all in regards to new trends and research. What is most important, however, is the feeling of community that each event has offered to those participating, as well as the friendships and the bonding that took place. It became standard practice for us to bring along husbands and children, partners and even friends who had nothing to do with ELT, but who enjoyed the warm and unique feeling of togetherness and of inclusion.

As Penny Masoura (member and TG chair 2013-2014) says, "In general, from the trips abroad to our latest walk around the historic part of Athens and the Ancient Agora, the summer events have always been about friends coming together and sharing 'moments' and memories."

Throughout the years, ELT professionals have been promoting humanistic teaching, which has eventually developed into empathy and compassion, the latest being one of the 4 Cs. TESOL Greece's Summer Events, whether intentionally or unintentionally, have become real-life workshops of sharing and caring. Also, in some rare but very romantic cases, they became the place where one meets his or her other half, as it happened in 2001 in Kala Nera, Magnissias, where our colleague and friend Alexandros Vouyouklis met his wife, Anna Zampetaki, and they have lived happily ever after, remaining loyal members of TESOL Greece.

What is the secret to the success of the Summer Events? TG Boards plan them well in advance and announce and advertise them during the annual TESOL Greece convention, which is always in March. On those rare occasions where an event has not been planned far in advance, a half-day event is organized, as was the case this year, when the TG Board decided to re-discover ancient Athens, planning a guided walk around the Ancient Agora and the Hephaestus Temple, followed by dinner in Plaka, the old city of Athens - A smashing success!

The Ancient Agora in the background , Athens, 2018

I'd like to close by quoting Misty Adoniou again, "[. . .] And there was something about the sun, the sea and the food that made it seem like anything was possible, and that all could be well with the world. I have felt that way about all the summer events of TESOL Greece. They have been somehow optimistic, and they have always been fun! They feel like events for the whole human being that each of us is, and not just the English teacher part of us."

TG is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year on March 2 -3, 2019. Conference theme: "The 5 Ts of TESOL: Teach, Train, Transform, Transcend, Trust". You're ALL welcome. www.tesolgreece.org


Lilika Couri has conducted teacher development and EFL School Management courses in Greece and abroad, as co-director of Educational & Training Consultants. She is co-author of EFL teaching books. Lilika is TESOL Greece chair for 2018-2019.

[1] Molyvos is a picturesque seaside small town on the island of Mytilini/Lesvos in the Aegean Sea in Greece.

[2] The British Council, Athens, gave funds to TESOL Greece to stage a special event that would celebrate the European Year of Languages 2001.

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