A Reflection on ETC2015: Language for Life

20150328_124531Kota Kinabalu was the fabulous setting for SENIA 13 and it was a wonderful opportunity for SENIA (Special Educators Network In Asia) to join forces with EARCOS to help spread the SENIA message to a much wider audience.  Each morning as the delegates gathered the theme of “education for all” was reinforced by Dr. Dick Krajczar’s messages, the SENIA Board presentations and all three of the keynote speakers.

Throughout the conference there were many opportunities for all participants to gather ideas on how they could make a difference for every student in their class. Through formal and informal modes, everyone had the chance to be inspired and many conversations took place about how they would implement their new found knowledge back in their classrooms upon completion of the conference.

20150326_111208The week began with the Pre-Conference Workshops presenting a wide range of topics that were all fully prescribed. There were a number of sessions sponsored by SENIA and the board would like to thank Lori Boll, Greg O’Connor and Bonnie Singer for their dynamic and versatile presentations.

BoardwCarolinaOn Day One of the Conference the board presented the third annual SENIA Student Advocacy Award. All of the nominees for this award were formally recognized, followed by the announcement Carolina Minton-Frias from the Western Academy of Beijing had won. Unfortunately Carolina wasn’t able to join on the first morning, but a day later the attendees were all able to hear Carolina’s inspiring story. Her humility shone through as she downplayed her own difficulties, thanked everyone who had supported her on her journey and looked at ways we can all help each other.

PennyThe second morning saw the presentation of The SENIA Advocacy Award. This year’s winner was Penny Robertson, founder of the Australian International School in Indonesia and a prime mover in raising awareness of Down Syndrome all around the world. Accepting on her behalf, Rovanna Bawden spoke of the great work teachers do on a daily basis supporting students who have difficulties with their learning. She also congratulated EARCOS and SENIA for promoting inclusive practices and advocating for all students.

The Keynote speakers all played their part to inspire and get everyone thinking about what we do and why we do it. John Wood began the conference with his wonderful story of bringing literature to the developing world. Anne Sibley O’Brien spoke about forming racial and cultural identity and James Stronge completed the keynotes with his talk on what makes great teachers great. The three together combined to reinforce the message that everyone has the capacity to make a real and positive difference in the lives of others.

20150327_084800Following the keynotes each day, delegates were spoiled for choice, as more than 140 different workshops were presented over the ten workshop sessions. With a wide range of topics on offer, many participants had a difficult time choosing which session to attend. Again many thanks go out to all of the presenters, but especially those who were sponsored by SENIA. It was inspiring to see large crowds at each session; particularly those that empowered teachers with strategies they could use to support all learners. To quote Susan Shand, ISKL Elementary Learning Resource teacher, “Through the selection of exceptional educators as presenters at SENIA/EARCOS 2015, I was provided with an outstanding selection of choice and expertise, to enhance my knowledge and skills in the area of special education.”

Board2During the final morning of the conference the SENIA board shared the history of SENIA, explaining how it developed in China and has now permeated into many of the countries in Southeast Asia in the form of local SENIA chapters. Sharing this conference with the friends at EARCOS has given SENIA a great opportunity to spread the message further. SENIA is excited about the inclusion journey that many schools are on and is looking forward to SENIA 14, which will be hosted by the International School of Kuala Lumpur February 25-27, 2016.

20150326_141704Conferences such as ETC15 provide great learning opportunities for participants and not all of this happens in the workshops. The informal gatherings are equally as important and a big thanks to the team at EARCOS and the Sutera Harbour Hotel for their wonderful hospitality throughout the conference. The cultural night and the closing reception were spectacular and provided a chance to share with colleagues and make new friends.

Finally, on behalf of the SENIA Board and all SENIA delegates, a big thanks goes out to Dr. Krajczar and his team at EARCOS for their wonderful support during the collaborative planning process and throughout the conference.  SENIA looks forward to building on this experience and doing it all again in a few years time.

To stay connected please visit the SENIA website (https://senia.asia/), follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SENIA_ASIA, or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SENIA.ASIA.

Written by: Paul Bawden, in collaboration with the SENIA Board

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