Episode 105 Making Connections, Making a Difference: Kathy Shelton & ACTFL

Making Connections, Making a Difference: Kathy Shelton & ACTFL
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 105 Making Connections, Making a Difference: Kathy Shelton & ACTFL

“I always encourage teachers that I work with to share what they know with other teachers, especially as conference presenters.  If the thought of presenting at ACTFL is too overwhelming, start by presenting at your state conference, then your regional conference to get a feel for what you can bring. Teachers have so many amazing ideas and knowledge and experiences to share, but I think they sometimes feel like they don’t have anything to give compared to the well-known presenters, which isn’t true.”

My podcast conversation with Kathy Shelton comes from a variety of connections, and I indeed hope it willl make a difference in your life and the lives of many others, to quote the title!

When we gather, we learn so much about ourselves, as well as others.

One aspect of a challenging world is that, with the constant global-wide comparisons made to idealized lives, physical beauty and strength, and achievements, most of us are taking big hits to our developing identities. And as the hits take their toll, many people lose sight of their unique strengths and unique contributions.

As a Gallup Clifton Strengths coach, I note this both with concern and with my experience and knowledge of how to address and overcome the psychological tolls and reveal and celebrate each person’s talents within.

My multi-decade perspective as both an educator and a manager/leader in the educational publishing industry has revealed clearly to me how often the practices of the one career path bridge and connect beautifully to other career paths. I’ve lived it. I’ve helped others live it.

So when you listen to this podcast, you will hear invitations to pathways to connection that you can take no matter what your role and work in life. You will hear encouragement to make connections and step into powerful positive opportunities for impact in your life.

Please know that each time you listen to stories like this — why I share them! — and each time you step out and ask others for their stories of reaching out, you put a rung in a ladder that can lift you out of a pit of despondency, out of a dark place where you may feel that hope is dimmed and you have no role to play.

You have unique gifts that will bring YOU joy, first, and then, as you fan the flame on your candle bigger and bigger, your light will help all the world to see more clearly.

Connect, and make a difference.

And THANK YOU for doing that.

Kathy Shelton bio and resources

Once a teacher always a teacher!  I taught high school French for 25 years and loved every minute of it.  I currently teach French and ESL for adult learners at Columbus State Community College here in Columbus, Ohio. I’m also the Education Program Specialist for World Languages and Cultures at the Ohio Department of Education. I lead professional learning for language teachers at the state, regional and national level and connecting with teachers is the best part of my job.

As far as my professional organization involvement, I serve on the ACTFL Board of Directors and I’m the Chair of the Convention Committee. Our committee works in conjunction with the ACTFL Convention Planning team to make sure that the learning and experience of the convention meets the needs of as many educators as possible.  Our committee worked for months to carefully and reflectively choose the sessions that are offered, choosing a diverse set of topics, languages, audiences and needs expressed from the ACTFL community. 

Additionally, as a member of NCSSFL, I co-chaired the NCSSFL-ACTFL committee that created the Intercultural Can-Do Statements and updated the Language Can-DO Statements in 2017. We are currently in the process of refreshing the Can-Dos now for 2023.


ACTFL Convention

ACTFL Membership

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0:00:00.0 Norah Jones: Name this week’s podcast, making connections, making a difference, because that’s what language does. With language, we connect inside ourselves. But, quintessentially, we connect with other human beings. When we do that, we make a difference in our own understanding of our personal impact on the world, and we gather together with others to help to make that impact. My guest this week is Kathy Shelton. Kathy Shelton is based in Ohio, USA, and she herself has been making a difference and many connections through her work as an educator in K-12 and higher education classrooms, and as a state supervisor of languages at the Ohio Department of Education, and as a board member of the national language organization, ACTFL. On the board, Kathy also serves as chair of the conference committee, so she works together with the staff of ACTFL to prepare for the very large annual language conference held in November of each year. And in this year, 2023, to be held in Chicago. Kathy explores, with me, why it is that people gather, why they’re together with like-minded dedicated professionals and volunteers, what kind of encouragement, what kind of joy, what kind of affirmation, and what kind of vision follows.

0:01:41.2 Norah Jones: Kathy provides us a joyful, in-depth, and sensitive look at why we gather, and she provides lots of specific information about how that looks in the case of the ACTFL convention, the ways that we gather, the ways that we learn from each other, the impact of individualizing the experience while coming together. It’s a powerful look at a powerful gathering. Enjoy this podcast with my guest, Kathy Shelton. Don’t forget to take a look at ACTFL’s website, actfl.org, for information about this upcoming convention and its early bird sign-up in July of 2023. It is a great pleasure to have you here today, Kathy Shelton. Welcome to It’s About Language.

0:02:37.6 Kathy Shelton: Hi, Norah. How’s it going?

0:02:38.8 Norah Jones: It’s going very well, and I’m excited to talk with you because there is so much important need and excitement and possibilities, especially in a challenging world, that comes from professional development and from people networking together that have a common interest, so thank you for bringing information about an encouragement for this national convention that ACTFL has. But I’d like to make sure that the folks that are listening today know who you are, what you bring to the experience of working with helping to develop this convention, so tell us about yourself, your background, your passions.

0:03:26.3 Kathy Shelton: Yeah, well, once a teacher, always a teacher, Norah. So I taught high school French for 25 years in Ohio, pronominal in Columbus, Ohio. I currently teach French and ESL to adult learners at Columbus Community College, and I’m also the K-12 world language specialists for the Ohio Department of Education. So I get to spend… A big part of my job is working with teachers on professional learning, which is really the best part of my job, so I get… It’s kinda nice because when I left the classroom… And after about three years, I’m like, I had to get back in the classroom. I miss teaching, but I really love my job, my other job, so I was lucky enough to get in with a community college teaching French and ESL. So I feel like I’m lucky enough to be able to stay in both worlds. I’m an ACTFL board member. This is my second year of a three-year term. I’ve been a member of NCSSFL, the language organization for state supervisors for the last 10 years. I was a board member with them, etcetera. ACTFL, as far as… In addition to being the board member and the convention chair, which we’ll talk about, I know, I also helped to co-chair the committees that wrote the Intercultural Can-Do Statements, and then updated the 2017 Can-Dos.

0:04:48.9 Kathy Shelton: And we’re actually now it’s been five years, so we’re updating the new Can-Dos, and we’re trying to make them a little bit more relevant and applicable to today’s society. So I’d have to probably say that’s, as far as ACTFL, is probably the thing that I just was… I guess I can say the proudest of, that I was a part of that because I know that those Can-Do Statements are part of the proficiency and the standards for almost every state. So I’ve had a good… A wonderful relationship, working relationship, with ACTFL, with NCSSFL, with teachers, with the state. I do a lot of workshops with teachers at state, regional, national, conferences, so just a lot of… Like I said, just I love to teach and I get to do a little in the classroom, but I love working with teachers too, so that’s kind of me in a nutshell.

0:05:37.8 Norah Jones: The extent, the breadth of what you have been involved with and continue to be involved with is think… Not only especially gratifying to hear and impressive to understand, but also then gives a great perspective on what you’re going to talk about with regard to the convention because you’ve been working with young adults, you’ve been working with adults, you work with English language learning, you work with the French, you work with the professional development, you’ve been writing, and part of the committee that develops those things that people use in their professional development. So I just… Re-affirming that what you can share about both the convention and why it is that professional development is so important for folks to participate in will be based on a truly wonderful experience, so thank you for bringing that today.

0:06:33.9 Kathy Shelton: Thank you.

0:06:34.8 Norah Jones: Well, let’s talk about the, in a nutshell, what the ACTFL convention is, so that people can take a look at what it is that you are, and the whole ACTFL team, and those of us that appreciate the national organization are encouraging people to know and potentially personally do or encourage others to do about the ACTFL convention. What is it?

0:07:01.1 Kathy Shelton: Okay, well, let’s… Tell you what, there’s two different ways that we can look at this, because we can talk about just the personal like, Oh my gosh, community piece, and then there’s actually sort of the logistics piece. So we’ll start with the logistics piece and then we can get into that more like community and networking. So logistically, it’s an international conference, so we have… Usually, get around over 7000 people from around the world. So it’s not just the United States, so we have people from around the world coming. I heard somebody describe it once, it’s almost like a United Nations at ACTFL. So there’s that aspect first that you are interacting with and communicating with, and learning from people from around the world, which is amazing because a lot of us is… Or language teachers, a lot of us are in isolation, a lot of times you’re the only language teacher, sometimes you’re the only department. So that’s the first thing, is just the interaction that you can get with people from around the world that you have no other chance to get that. Learning-wise, so we had… Let’s see. We have over 600 types of different sessions that are going to be offered, so you have thing…

0:08:13.7 Kathy Shelton: We have our regular sessions that are 45 minutes over the course of the three days, we have work, we have pre-conference workshops that you can sign up for the day before, which are either a half day or a full day, so if you want something a little more intense. We have… Oh, what’s really nice is that if you’re like, okay, I want something different from a session, is there’s all these other side things in the exhibit hall. So you’ve got exhibitors, obviously, which we’ll talk about, but you’ve got the exhibitors who do their own session, but then ACTFL has all these side cool things where you have like… There’s the actual sidebar, and I know some of the regional conferences have started imitating this. I know we just did it at Central States, where it’s just, there’s a whole schedule of conversations and you just sort of… It’s like a sidebar. You just walk up and a couple of people are facilitating, you participate, you listen, if it’s a topic you want, you can move on, you can stay the whole time.

0:09:05.0 Kathy Shelton: So that’s really cool to do that because it’s just a bunch of different topics and they repeat them, so it’s not like, Oh my gosh, I missed the topic on AI, they’ll repeat each one throughout the three days. We’ve got the career cafe, which has a lot of things about your career, so resume writing, job connections, etcetera. There’s the impactful zone, which I love the name, and that’s all about all the testing stuff like the LTI, the AAPPL, the different types of things that you can learn about ACTFL itself.

0:09:34.9 Kathy Shelton: There’s a new cafe and if people have gone before… It used to be called the… Or the social media zone, but now they’re changing it to the digital learning zone, so it’s not just social media. And that’s great for everybody who’s a techy and you just go and it’s just all things tech that you get to talk about. I’m trying to think what else we have in there. Oh, oh, one thing we’re doing this year that’s new is we’re going to do this Friday sort of open lunch, and it’s going to be about AI, because AI seems to be the number one topic that everyone wants for obvious reasons. And so it’s going to be just sort of a… I think there’s only going to be room for about 100 people, but we’re trying to see if maybe we could do more, but I think it’s limited to 100. But it’s just an open lunch concept, you bring your lunch, and there’s tables that are facilitated by different people. And so there’s different topics at the table, so you just so can go from table to table, take your lunch, talk informally, so it’s a lot of interactive things. Oh, the other thing, so if your… Because sessions can get kind of crowded, because we got 7000 people there, and we have, I believe, about 15 sessions offered at the time, it can get pretty crowded.

0:10:41.4 Kathy Shelton: So another thing, if you’re… Want something a little more intimate or personal, we do round tables, which are also in the exhibit hall. So the round table is you have a presenter, and it’s room for 10 people at the table, and it’s still like a… I think it’s like 45-minute session, but it’s just one topic, so they present a little bit, but it’s a lot more personable, you can interact much more than when you’re in a session. So sometimes you like the session because there’s a lot of information and a lot of energy in the room. And sometimes, you’re just like, I just want to talk to somebody one-on-one. So you’ve got the sessions, you’ve got the round tables. Some of the sessions are pretty cool because they do practice papers where different people present papers, and it’s more of like there’s three people present on a 15-minute topic. So we have research papers, we have practice papers, so there’s a lot more than just I go, I sit in a session for 45 minutes, and I move on to the next session. There’s all sorts of different ways to interact. Let’s see. There’s the assembly of delegates on Thursday, which is a big…

0:11:40.6 Kathy Shelton: A lot of people come and just talk about the different topics of the day. Those are I’m thinking… I’m hit a lot of the logistics. I’m trying to think if I missed anything, but yeah, there’s just a lot of different ways, so you’re not… ACTFL really works on trying to make a lot of different ways to interact and communicate with people. So if you’re getting a little overwhelmed, you can just say, you know what, I’m just going to go walk around the exhibit hall a little bit and just sort of see what’s going on in the exhibit hall. So just logistically, it’s incredibly well organized. The ACTFL planning team, it is incredibly well organized, how they do it. Oh, there… How could I forget? There’s the opening session, which is, if you ever seen those things with Apple or like when Steve Jobs used to do those huge things with the big screen and all that, that’s what the opening session is like. So if you can be at ACTFL that Friday morning for the opening session, it’s just incredible. There’s music, there’s entertainment. We have the teacher of the year ceremony. We have amazing keynote speakers. So it’s just…

0:12:40.3 Kathy Shelton: It’s not just like your run-of-the mill conference. It’s a truly like a festival celebration, interaction, learning experience, community, it’s just… Yeah, so even though I said I was only going to talk about the logistics, it’s hard to talk about the logistics without seeing how the energy is built right into it.

0:12:57.8 Norah Jones: You used an interesting word… Well, you used many interesting words there, but one of them that I just gloved on to was the idea of festival. One aspect of helping those that have never been to an ACTFL conference or ones like it is the energy that’s found, and it’s not just a series of sessions to go to and to take notes and then to trudge off to another one, although if that’s one’s style. So there’s a festival attitude going on. It sounds like, along with just the sheer numbers, the sheer variety, that we’re talking about addressing the needs of individual styles and also of a variety of educator types who tends to come… You just talked about it being international and not just national, but what types of educator or those associated with education and educators come to ACTFL?

0:13:58.1 Kathy Shelton: Predominantly, it’s going to be teachers, obviously, but we also have administrators, we have curriculum specialists, we have people who run their own companies, I think the thing that’s really nice is when we talk about audiences and when we’re choosing the sessions, when we’re choosing the different speakers, etcetera, is we try to keep in mind those different audiences. So we have K-12 educators, obviously, so we have a lot of sessions that can apply K-18, but be K-16, K-18, but are also K-12.

0:14:30.1 Kathy Shelton: We have a lot of post-secondary because sometimes the needs of our post-secondary educators are a little bit different. We have language-specific sessions, which are really nice, so if you’re a speaker of another language and you’re like, I really know… I hardly ever get to hear French or Chinese or Arabic. So we try to have a good variety of sessions that are actually taught in the target language. If you’re already a member of ACTFL and you’re familiar with the special interest groups, the special interest groups each have their own meeting and presentation. So if you want to meet some of the people that you’ve only interacted with online, so we have educators from that. We have… I know a lot of people feel like, oh, either I’m a veteran teacher, I don’t need a conference, or I’m a brand new teacher, and this is too much. And one thing that we did this year, which I think is really nice, it’s a new track that we implemented, because sometimes teachers come, and it’s like everything is so…

0:15:28.5 Kathy Shelton: It’s so innovative and exciting, but I’m a brand new teacher or I’m an early career teacher, or I came from an alternative background, I’m not a teacher who came up through it, and we realize that those are needs that sometimes the teachers feel like can’t be met. So what we did this year, it’s really cool, is we have a track that’s called the early career, early career teachers and foundational practices track, and it’s 15 sessions over the course, and they’re all in the same room and they’ll be indicated on the program, and on the app, and everything, but what we did is we took sessions that we thought were just those best practices, foundational, like I just need to know how to write an assessment or something like that, and we set them up and we tried to put them in an order, and it’s not exact, but we try to do it in the order of what it would look like if a teacher were planning, start to finish, planning their curriculum.

0:16:21.8 Kathy Shelton: So I think the first session is, how do I build community in my classroom. One of the sessions is how to just… How do I use the target language across every proficiency level? One is how do I just design a unit? One is how do I provide feedback? One is what do I do for alternatives to homework? What do I do for culture? What do I do for DEI in my classroom? So we’re really excited about this early career foundational practices track, because like I said, a lot of times people feel like, oh, everything has to be really innovative, and sometimes you’re like, no, I just need something basic. And so we truly are trying to highlight that to show that, because everyone’s in a different spot. Some teachers are like, oh been there, done that. I know all the foundational stuff, I really want something new and different, and others are like, this is my first time at ACTFL, this is my first or second year of teaching, I just need something that I can relate to that’s not beyond my I+1, that’s sort of within my zone of fractional development. So we’re pretty excited about that too.

0:17:17.7 Kathy Shelton: So I think as far as the teachers, like I said, we get new teachers, veteran teachers, alternative careers, we get administrators, curriculum directors, just everything. That’s what’s so beautiful about ACTFL, is you get so many people from so many different backgrounds.

0:17:30.9 Norah Jones: Well, and Kathy, you’ve spoken so beautifully about the offerings that are there across the spectrum of people’s experiences and years, and I’m going to tap, for just a moment, on those who may still be saying this sounds really overwhelming, and I’m already feeling kind of overwhelmed, I don’t even know, might I be able to plug in what I… Would you say I can learn? So address some of the effect of stuff here, of the person that’s looking at their phone right now or whatever it is that you’re listening to this on and going, nevertheless, it sounds a little bit overwhelming. Talk a little bit about how that can be addressed and relieved.

0:18:23.0 Kathy Shelton: Yeah, and it is. Even when you’re a veteran and you walk in… because I even know, especially this past year in Boston, after three years of being virtual, walking in, even me who’s been going to conferences forever, I was even overwhelmed with… I haven’t been with this many people in three years, so… Yeah, it could definitely be overwhelming. So the one thing that I think all teachers have going for us is we’re all planners, we like to organize, we plan. And so I highly, highly recommend planning. Don’t just show up and say, I’ll figure it out when I get there, because it’s too much. So the program will be available online, there’ll be an app that you can download, there’s also… We always have a paper program, so if you’re like, I need paper, you can get a paper program when you get there, but the first thing that I always recommend to teachers is that just really sit down for a second and think, what do I need out of this conference because everybody has… Or convention really? Everybody has different needs. If you’re a new teacher, you may be, I just need to get some big…

0:19:23.6 Kathy Shelton: Like I were saying, I just need some basic foundational things. You maybe maybe a language, that’s not as commonly taught, and you’re like, I need to network with people who speak my language, you may be a veteran teacher who says… Like I was saying earlier, I need some really innovative… I just need some new stuff to sort of refresh me and refresh my students. So that’s my first recommendation, is just to sort of sit down quietly, reflectively, and say, what do I need out of this convention, and then one… So sort of maybe even if you make a little teacher or however you want to do it. So I think that’s the first step to figure out what you need. Then the second step is to really do some intentional planning before you come. Look at the program, look at the sessions, look at… Because you can’t…

0:20:05.2 Kathy Shelton: And you can sort by the language, you can sort… The audience is a little bit tougher this year because sessions were allowed to put more than one audience, so it wasn’t quite as straightforward as it has in the past, but you can usually tell by looking at the session if it’s like post-secondary or K-12. So you can sort by language, you can sort by keywords, and so we have tons of keywords like assessment, DEI, social justice, inter-cultural planning, task-based design, career, digital.

0:20:35.3 Kathy Shelton: So that’s the second thing, to sort of look at all the keywords that are available and decide, okay, which ones really fit what I’m looking for, look at the languages, look at the key words, look at the topics, just look at the titles, sort of scroll through the titles each day and look for words that stand out that you’re like, “Oh yeah, this is what I want to do” you may know presenters already that you’re familiar with, so you may be… Oh yeah, there’s a presenter in Illinois that I love, or there’s a presenter in California, I wonder if he or she is going to be there, or if they’re going to be there and check for their name and then go to their sessions too. So that’s my second… So first recommendation, figure out what you really want to get out of the convention. Second, is start going through and really… In Ohio, when we do the Ohio Conference, we call it Plan Your Dance Card, which is probably a little out of date for our younger teachers, but basically… I literally have a piece of paper where I jot down at least initially, this is what I’m going to do each session, so that’s the second thing, is do some intentional planning.

0:21:35.2 Kathy Shelton: The next thing is to think about is that you don’t have to do professional learning the whole time, especially if you’re going to be there all three days, to be like, I’m starting at 8:00 AM and I’m finishing at 6:00 PM, and I’m doing a session every single time, and no, because you’ll get… That’s just too much. You’ll get burned out. So the second thing is to really think about what am I going to do if I’m feeling sort of overwhelmed and there’s so… I mean were in Chicago, it is November, so it might be a little chilly, but it could also be warm, but plan what you can do that’s not necessarily sitting in a session. So I had mentioned earlier the round tables, I had mentioned the informal lunch. Like I said, just go to the exhibit hall. The exhibit hall is amazing. We have, oh my gosh, almost 200 exhibitors. And so the energy, even in the exhibit halls, like its own experience, just network, go to those little sidebar things, so I would sort of look at maybe even have like, here’s things official professional prescribed learning, I’m going to do, and here’s my, okay, I need a break from all of the people.

0:22:33.5 Kathy Shelton: Here’s what I’m going to do there, and then maybe even have a third kind of like, okay, I have to escape the hall and the convention center, I’m going to go to the museum where you’re not allowed to talk, or where it’s really quiet, I’d go to the Shedd Aquarium. I’m going to go to the LEGO store, I don’t know. Whatever, walk along the shore. So that’s really good, is to have options that there’s learning, there’s sort of more informal learning, and then there’s… Sometimes I just need to step away. ACTFL has, on the convention website, it’s really nice because they have a whole thing of what to do in Chicago. So if you’ve never been there, how do I get around, what’s the transportation, how do I fly in and out? There’s all sorts of transportation deals on there. So that’s my third step, is to remember that you don’t have to be engrossed in learning the entire time because it can get incredibly overwhelming, so have… But plan in advance, because once you’re in there, there’s so much going on. It’d be hard just to take the time, you’re like, I don’t want to miss anything, and so you sort of randomly go to stuff. So I think that’s probably my big thing. So what do you need out of it? Officially, plan a schedule, look at the app and the online program, and then decide what are my different categories for, intentional learning, informal learning, and just stepping away and getting a break.

0:23:47.5 Norah Jones: Since 1962, ACTFL has set industry standards for World Language Education, established proficiency guidelines advocated for language education funding and connected colleagues across the globe. ACTFL is an individual membership organization of thousands of language educators and administrators, as well as government and industry members. One goal, to enhance and expand multilingual and multicultural education worldwide. I am pleased that ACTFL has partnered with me in this podcast to bring information about the organization and about the annual convention. Please take a look at the actual website, actfl.org, to discover more about ACTFL, to consider membership and to consider attending this conference in Chicago, Illinois 2023. Early bird registration is July 12th, 2023.

0:24:49.3 Norah Jones: I look forward to welcoming you along with the thousands of others in profession of language education that are ready to collaborate, connect and change the world with you. Thank you, ACTFL. For your partnership. I’m going to do this fairly superficially because we do know that introversion and extraversion are not categories that are so distinct that we know exactly what we’re talking about, but let’s use them for just a second as shorthand. You have some folks that maybe decide to come to the convention with friends, colleagues that they already know, or even family members, so that there’s other things that the family can be doing. But let’s talk about the professionals for just a sec, that they are coming with colleagues that they already know, others may be coming all on their own.

0:25:46.0 Norah Jones: And what can you tell us, Kathy, about the networking and about how people, assuming that they have a personality that wants to make new friends… No, actually, because pretty much everybody needs someone that they can interact with, what’s the networking possibilities here, what are some of the mood of that and the steps that can be even purposeful with regard to networking?

0:26:20.5 Kathy Shelton: Yeah, and I’m an introvert, and I have found that a lot of people that I think are extroverts, what we call ourselves extroverted-introverts, and I found that more and more teachers are really introverts that I don’t want to… Obviously, I don’t want to… Like you said, I don’t know want to generalize, but I think a lot more people are introverts than we realize. So I think that’s where it gets back to that intentionality piece when you’re doing your planning. I would say the first step would be find your language groups. So for example, I’m French, as I mentioned, so I’m going to try and go to sessions that I know will be French teachers. I can speak the language, it’ll be much more targeted to what I’m doing, it will be people who speak my language, more or less. So I’m going to try and find at least a sort of maybe an entry point. That might be a good way to go.

0:27:09.6 Kathy Shelton: I’m going to go with the French teachers and see what’s there. There’s several luncheons on Saturday, there’s the embassy of France, embassy of Spain and then there’s three, I think Japan… I’d have to double-check, but there’s five different luncheons that are language-specific. So that’s another good way, maybe sign up for that luncheon because then you’re with a group of teachers that are all teaching the same thing, teaching the same content, and you immediately find when you’re with someone who teaches that language. So that would be my first thing, to do that. My second thing then would be, as I mentioned earlier, maybe sign up for a couple of those roundtables because in that roundtable, like I said, it’s only 10 people at a table, you really start to find with those people because you’re sharing such intimate and personal discussions.

0:27:51.0 Kathy Shelton: So I would suggest also doing some smaller things like roundtables. The other thing is those little.

conversations, because those are really nice, because you know how it is. It’s sort of like when you’re at any event, you’re sort of standing there, and even though strangers are around you, you start talking about what they’re talking about, or somebody makes a comment and you’re like, oh my gosh, I do the same thing, and then you connect, and you’re like, hey, let’s change text and, hey, you want to go get a bite to eat? So it is… If you’re by yourself, it is going to have to take a little bit of effort especially if you’re an introvert, but I would do that, find the things that you’re really passionate about, find the sessions, that really are something that you feel the most connected to, and that gives you sort of that entry way into finding people that you know. Chances are, I’ve often found, every time I go, I run into people that I don’t realize are going to be there that I know, and so…

0:28:39.4 Kathy Shelton: I don’t want to obviously generalize again, but chances are you will probably run into people that you know either on a surface level or you’re like, oh my gosh, I went to your session school or something like that and saw you present. So yeah, you’re going to have to put yourself out there a little bit even as an introvert, but I do think find the things that appeal to you the most, that are going to be the most comfortable entry way for you. And then by the end, it really does expand your network even if you’re only there for a couple of days.

0:29:06.6 Norah Jones: Great advice.

0:29:06.7 Kathy Shelton: And look for me. If nothing else, you can look for me and say, hey, Kathy, I heard your podcast, I need a friend. Will you go to lunch with me? And I will go to lunch with you.

0:29:14.4 Norah Jones: There you go, there’s the invitation, and that kind of segues into something that I know that from my history of the many decades, actually, of attending these things, is that sometimes those that have been… Especially those that are more isolated or those whose personalities feel a little bit sometimes more intimidated, will feel there’s a lot of star power around, and I’ll go ahead and lead this, the question by making a statement that the folks that are presenting, the folks that are leading these things are really, by definition, some of the most friendly, accepting, welcoming, oh, I’m so glad you introduced yourself and what do you do and now be… You can be my buddy if you wish, experiences that… There’s the star power, but everyone’s very approachable, that you can go ahead and say hello to Kathy Shelton and it will turn out. You know.

0:30:13.8 Kathy Shelton: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point, because I know when I way back first started going, and I was the same way. I’m like, I’ll give a little shout-out to our friend, Paul Sandrock. But I was like, oh my gosh, paul Sandrock is here. And but you’re right when you go to their session or you just see them walking around the exhibit hall, and even if its, like I said, just a simple like, oh my gosh, I was at your session at a different conference, and saw you or I’ve listened to your podcast, or I’ve read your book, super friendly. I mean, we are all world language teachers, we are all… I always say we’re like a community within even a sub-community. It’s sort of like in the schools, the world languages are sort of… In a meeting, it’s like all the other content areas, and when world languages, go do your thing. And then when you’re in your language, you’re sometimes even more compartmentalized. So I think I love what you said that they’re… Yes, there are star power in the presenters, but everybody is so incredibly friendly. I mean, just go up and chat. A lot of people that, like you mentioned, the star power, in addition to just be walking around or doing sessions, some of them will be at…

0:31:20.7 Kathy Shelton: You’ll see a lot in the exhibition hall, behind tables talking to different people about everything, running some of those sidebar conversations. So again, it is just approach, and just a little, hey, I just wanted to introduce myself. I’ve heard about you, I love your stuff. And you’ll realize that, yeah, we’re all the same, and we’re language teachers, like I said, we are… I think we’re just a really close breed because we know that we have to support each other, because a lot of times there’s not a lot of external support. I think the other thing that’s kind of cool about ACTFL, and I know I feel this… And I think people, whether you go to a state conference, a regional or the ACTFL convention, is that when you’re sitting there and you’re like at the opening ceremony, or you’re listening to the key notes, or you’re at a session, or you’re listening to these conversations, and you start to realize, yes, this is really cool. But you also realize, wait a minute, I have something that I can contribute too, and that is one thing that I’m constantly… Since I work with so many teachers, is I’m constantly encouraging them to… You are doing amazing things that you can share.

0:32:26.7 Kathy Shelton: So they’re like, oh no, I could never do that. And it’s like, no, oh my gosh. What you’re doing, I don’t know anyone else who was doing that. And so I always suggest to them, start with a regional conference, or a state conference, if necessary. Or even at your school, just do like a little district thing, and then present in a state conference, then may be a regional and then eventually at ACTFL. But I always find that, especially with those opening sessions, because there’s so much energy, and the big sessions, you’re like, I could do this, I think I want to do this. And we do have the proposal… The session proposal portal is open right around the time of the convention, which is probably good because people are like, oh my gosh, I got this great idea that I want to submit. So it was probably subliminal like, hey, by the way.

0:33:07.0 Kathy Shelton: So I think that’s another thing that I encourage people to do, is, it’s cool to be around quote unquote superstars of the world, language world. I think it’s always cool to meet these people, I’m like, Oh my gosh, but also don’t discount your own abilities of what you can bring because, especially if you’re a veteran teacher, you’ve got your experience, but newer teachers are coming in with other things that you may be like, oh, I didn’t even think about doing this, but they’re going through their programs and learning.

0:33:37.2 Kathy Shelton: The other… A couple of things related to that is we also, because I’m pushing this session proposal, we also will offer a session at the conference about, how do like write a session. Because a lot of people are like, I don’t really know how to write the proposal. I’m not going to get accepted. And we do get… We get over a thousand proposals, so we can’t accept everybody. There’s just… Even though they’re all high quality, we’re limited just spatially by how many we can accept, but we do do a session on how do I submit a proposal. There’s a volunteer portal on there, if you’re like, I want to get involved with ACTFL, but I don’t want to run for the board or be anything big like this, but I wouldn’t mind helping out with something, go to the website, sign up on the volunteer portal. You can be on a committee for… Like you could sign up to be on the convention committee or join one of the SIGs. So I think people who are feeling a little overwhelmed or like, I’m not worthy, or whatever to do this, is really, yes, you are. But sometimes, again, it’s sort of like when we were talking earlier with the introverts, you just need to find that entry point to figure out just the I+1, I’m always about the I+1. Okay, here I am where uncomfortable.

0:34:44.0 Kathy Shelton: What’s a little bit more I can do to get more involved? And people who… It’s funny because I’ve been at sessions where it was someone who presented that really wasn’t someone that a lot of people knew, but their session was amazing. And afterwards, all of a sudden they became… Everyone’s around them and talking this, and they’re sort of almost like, I don’t know what to do with this, I didn’t realize I could even contribute this way. So I think walk out to the people that you think might be sort of those superstars and say, hey, I love your stuff, and I think it will help you develop that network, and it’ll help you… Encourage you to realize I can be a part of this community, I can continue to give to this community, and then you keep building your experience as new people come in because it’s just… It’s a cyclical process.

0:35:34.5 Norah Jones: Very encouraging. You’ve made sure, each time we’ve been talking here, that people feel that they have the ability to go find what they need to learn. And in this particular case, you added the… That I can contribute… There are two areas of the convention, I think, that are things that if folks have not been, especially to this larger convention, that is kind of brand new, and one is the key notes and the other is what they can do in the exhibit hall. You alluded to both. Can you spend a little time talking about what happens, because sometimes people that have not been… Or are not in charge of, say, purchasing large quantities of stuff may think, exhibits, I don’t know what that does for me. And so addressing what they’ll enjoy with regard to keynotes and then what they can experience with regard to the wonderful exhibitors that are present.

0:36:39.6 Kathy Shelton: Yeah, the first thing is, I encourage anyone, especially if you’re brand new to the convention, on Friday morning, I think it’s 7:15 AM, unfortunately, but myself and a couple other, we lead a welcome to the convention for first time attendees, and so we spend about 45 minutes going over with you things like, this is the way… What’s happening at the exhibit hall, these are the different type of session, some of the stuff we’ve just been talking about here. We’ll go over how to use the app. It’s a new app this year, so once I become familiar with it, we’ll go over how do we use the app, how do we do it, how do we not get overwhelmed. So that’s the first thing I encourage anyone who’s new, is to come to our session at 7:15 Friday morning, bring your coffee, and we’ll sort of walk you through some of the things you’re talking about. As far as the key notes, the key note is… And if you go to the ACTFL main page, you can see the two keynote speakers that we have. So on the opening session, we will have one keynote. We do a little bit of introduction, and then the key note is about.

0:37:44.0 Kathy Shelton: I think they usually speak about 45, 50 minutes, and it’s usually someone who may be an educator, may not, but they have some sort of cultural experience and whatever their profession may be or whatever they do, that they come and they bring in, they tie-in World Languages to the broader community, and it’s really nice because it’s not necessarily just as a teacher, what can I do? It’s in the global community because we are such an underserved area of… You can’t have a global community without language teachers, and the keynotes are so inspiring and they’re so electric and they just… They help you realize, I am more than just what I do with my kids in front of me in the classroom, that I have so much more, that language is in my culture and what I’m doing for my students is going to bring to the broader world.

0:38:31.7 Kathy Shelton: So I think that’s really nice thing about the keynote, is just their intensity, the relevance that they show us, their inspiration. So we have an opening keynote on Friday, and then we have a closing keynote on Sunday morning, so I highly recommend… I know everybody doesn’t get a chance to stay through Sunday, it all depends. I highly, highly recommend going to hear the keynotes on Friday and Sunday, if you can, because like I said, it’s just… It’s inspirational to hear somebody outside of the educational field, say you are valued, you are worthy. What you do can change the world because we don’t often get that from our little world that we’re in, the insular world.

0:39:09.6 Kathy Shelton: So that was the first thing. So the exhibit hall… Oh my gosh, I love the exhibit hall. I forget how the Chicago Conference Center is set up, but when we were in the Boston one, like you walked in to the convention, but then the exhibit hall was actually down these escalators, and the whole thing was surrounded by glass, so you could look down on the exhibit hall, and it’s just like, oh my gosh. And like I said, we’ve got about almost… I think we’ve got 170 exhibitors more less down there, but again, like I said, so you can see the exhibit hall. Like I said, we’ll have the roundtables. Exhibitors do session.

0:39:45.8 Kathy Shelton: So if there’s maybe a textbook that you’re interested in, so maybe there… You know what? I’m going to call it any specific textbook, but there’s the textbook you’re interested in, or materials, or curriculum, they will typically do an exhibitor session right there in the exhibit hall. And so it’s just a little side area with chairs. So that’s one thing you can do. You can just just walk around and see everybody. They always have their free little knick-knacks and samples. You don’t necessarily have to buy anything, but it’s nice, especially if you’re looking for new curricular materials, if you’re looking for new technology, there’s travel abroad companies, there’s some… Oh, the Language Resource Centers, the National Resource Centers, which are amazing because of all the free resources they offer. ACTFL, obviously, has a big booth in the middle, the different organizations, the language organizations. So there’s a lot in there besides just looking for products. There’s a lot of other services that are offered within there. The different embassies have exhibitor tables in there. So that’s another thing, is just walking around, because you realize, wow, I didn’t realize this technology was out there. I didn’t realize that these resources were out there if you went into different type of materials, and that’s another…

0:40:52.8 Kathy Shelton: We were talking about the superstars or whatever, a lot of those people that you know from some of these really well-known products, they’re at their exhibit booth, they’re like, hey, what’s going on? And so it’s a nice way to really interact or if you have questions and ask them, because the exhibitors want people to talk to them, they want them to stop and say, hey, tell me about your materials, tell me about your travel abroad, tell me about your technology. Like I said, we also have all those different things, like the sidebar, we have the cafe, so it’s not just a bunch of tables with a bunch of companies trying to sell you stuff. It truly is just another way to interact, to network, to meet people, to see what’s out there to broaden just your own expertise and knowledge, to get some sessions that are a little bit smaller than some of those giant ones. So again, that exhibit hall is a fun place to be. There’s just so much excitement, it’s really casual and spontaneous, some of them bring… Some of them have mascot, so they bring their little mascot character to get your picture taken with and stuff like that.

0:41:53.7 Kathy Shelton: So there’s also on ACTFL convention page, if you scroll to the very bottom, there’s a video. I think it’s like a minute and a half video of what is it like to be at an ACTFL convention, and it’s from the one last year at Boston. And they interview teachers, they show the exhibit hall, they show the sessions. So it gives you a really good visual of what does it look like at ACTFL. It can’t replicate the energy, but even in the video, over and over, people to just keep talking about the energy, the energy, the energy, the networking. So I highly recommend also that if people haven’t watched that video on the convention main page, take a look at that video because it really gives you a good idea of everything that there is to do during the convention.

0:42:36.9 Norah Jones: It’s a great thing. And watching the video, I’m sure it helps to bring, visually to folks, auditorily to folks in the energy that you’re speaking about. Now, Kathy, sometimes folks are looking at… They will look at expenses, they go to actfl.org, they look at the convention, they’d like to go, and it’s like, Oh, this is an investment, and I would like to go ahead and say on behalf of what we’re talking about here today, again, from my own background as an educator and supervisor, this is an investment. It’s okay to invest in yourself, but that’s easy in a way to say when I don’t know what the specific financial situation of an individual is. What are ways that individuals that really, really want to come, but really can’t figure out what to do financially in order to make it happen, what are some ways that they can get there?

0:43:35.8 Kathy Shelton: Yeah, ACTFL is super generous with how they support the attendees as much as they can, and it is, I know looking at that price, if you don’t have that sponsorship from the district, it can be very difficult. So there’s a couple of different things out there that you can do. If you are a first time attendee, ACTFL has a $500 award that you can get for attending to sort of offset the cost. Last year, they gave I think it was almost $57,000 worth of these stipends to different people to be able to attend. And again, everything I’m going to talk about is on the convention main page, under like travel or expenses or whatever. So if this is your first time coming, go on there and take a look at the different characteristics and communities that we’re trying to encourage to be able to come. Because $500 is… That can cover the cost of your plane ticket, at least if nothing else. There’s also on there, like if you have a group of people that come together, you can get a discount on how much you get off the registration fee. We have early bird registration, which goes through mid-July, so definitely check out the early bird because that’s some big savings.

0:44:47.0 Kathy Shelton: If you’re a member of ACTFL, you save $115 on registration. So if you join ACTFL, you save a lot of money on the registration. For the flight, and this is all on the travel drop down, there’s discounts, if you fly with Delta and United. There’s discounts on flights. They have discounts for Avis if you need to rent a car. So go into the travel info, there’s info on the parking, the travel, etcetera, on that.

0:45:14.2 Kathy Shelton: We try to keep our convention rates as low as we possibly can. We’re a super deal compared to a lot of other national conventions, but again, I don’t want to discount that. Money is money, especially, it’s tight right now. We have a letter on there also, if teachers are trying to give justification to their district, sometimes the district might be more willing to help support the teacher. We have a Dear Administrator letter right on the webpage that teachers can download and that you can present and say, this is what I’m going to be learning from this. A lot of organizations… Oh, I’m sorry a lot of districts and some of the post-secondary universities will actually, if a teacher is presenting a session, are more willing to support them financially, so that’s something…

0:46:02.7 Kathy Shelton: It’s a little too late for this year, but to think about for next year, that if I’m presenting, I might be able to get more support from my district or my university than I would if I’m just attending. Oh, we also have… We just started this last year, because a lot of people ask, is there a way I can use this to get college credit? And ACTFL itself can’t offer college credit, but we develop sort of a template that you can take back to your university that you can ask them, do it as an independent study or some sort of course, so especially if you’re a teacher in training, it’s a way to maybe take back and get some course credit for it, so you’re sort of offsetting the cost that way.

0:46:41.9 Kathy Shelton: So we understand that it’s expensive. We know that times are tight, so ACTFL tries to do as much as they can to support the teachers. If you do know someone who’s coming, try and get a room together. I mean, there’s a lot of teachers. You can cut your hotel bill in half. If you can either fly together or meet at the airport and Uber over together, share a room together. So there’s a lot of different ways you can save money. So we try to do the best we can, understanding that, yes, it’s definitely… It’s a financial cost to come to ACTFL. So hopefully, when we plan it that we do make the return on investment. We think the return on investment is worth it for the amount of networking and professional learning that you receive. But and they’re free to reach out to me or to our convention team if there’s other questions that they have about it, but we do try to support as much as we can financially with attendees.

0:47:36.5 Norah Jones: That’s extremely helpful that you have provided a variety right there, and, again, @actfl.org, information about the convention, and this kind of support is there too. And I’m going to return to the idea of invest in yourself, and there may even be those that are in the education field who may not have been aware that they can turn to administrators and say can you support me in total or in part for this professional growth, and here’s what I can do in return, or end up with, say, a departmental decision on that so that your learning, your experience becomes then that which can help others to understand what are opportunities for them as well.

0:48:22.6 Kathy Shelton: Yeah, I think it’s a really good point that if you say, okay, three of us are going, but we will come back and provide professional learning for the department or for the district, or like you said, even… because I know teachers in the past that I’ve roomed with, it’s like, okay, my district will pay for me to fly there, but they won’t pay for my hotel. So if you can at least, like I said, split it with somebody with the hotel. But I do agree with you 100%, when you can explain to your administrator what’s the return on investment when I come back as far as me… And approach them, because I think you’re right. A lot of teachers are like, oh, my school will never pay for it, and they don’t even… Or the administrator may say we can give you this much. The other thing is also a lot of districts, and I don’t know about universities, K-12 though, a lot of them have the parent organizations or some sort of professional organization within the district that offers scholarships for small grants. Talk to them to see if there might be a way to do it too, because it really is…

0:49:25.6 Kathy Shelton: The ACTFL convention really is something that cannot be replicated at any other way. And if financially you can’t do it, then I do encourage you to at least see, can I go to my state conference, can I go to my regional conference, because those are… The people presenting at those conferences are the same people presenting at the ACTFL conference. So even if you can’t make it to be ACTFL, at least see if you can invest in that professional learning at the state level or the regional level, or like I said, set up your own with the virtual. There’s a lot out there too.

0:49:54.8 Norah Jones: And once you get the bug, you want to keep doing it because it connects you and empowers you in a way that just cannot be replicated any other way. It’s phenomenal. Kathy, is there… What else would you like to say? What’s that last thing that you don’t want us to finish today in this conversation, before you’ve had a chance to repeat or to exhort or to invite or whatever happens to have come to your mind when I did this introduction. What else do you want to say as we finish up today?

0:50:31.8 Kathy Shelton: I think the biggest… because I was thinking about this before we met, and I think the best word that just comes up is that connection piece, because… And we all know our brains are hard-wired for connection, and as world language teachers… I know as a French teacher, I was often almost always my entire career the only French teacher. There were other language teachers but I was often the only French teacher, which has its advantages, but also has its disadvantages because I didn’t have that network around me to support, to connect to. So I think if there’s anything, probably the key word to take away from our conversation today is that feeling of connection, because it’s rough for teachers right now, it’s hard, there’s a lot of disconnection, there’s a lot of controversy right now in our districts, in the country across the world, and you can feel disenfranchised, you can feel dispirited, you can feel like, I just want to give up, I just don’t want to do this anymore. And the connection and the energy that you feel when you go to ACTFL, I think I mentioned it earlier, is that you realize what I do has value, I am valued, I can offer something of value to world, I am making a difference, whether I’m just making a difference with my kids in front of me in the classroom, or I’m making a difference on the huge stage, but you need that connection to reinvigorate you every year.

0:51:55.5 Kathy Shelton: And walking into ACTFL, after you get over sort of the wow factor when you first walk in and you really start to just connect with people and experiences and knowledge, I think that’s probably my biggest thing, is if nothing else, think about that connection that we all need, especially in such a digital world, that physical face-to-face connection with people at the convention, that is probably the biggest takeaway that I think that you will get if you come to the ACTFL convention, is this connection with other like-minded people.

0:52:29.9 Norah Jones: Well, my warm and heartfelt thank you to Kathy Shelton did not make it onto the recording. However, I do thank Kathy for her insights and her warmth, and I know that you felt it too, the invitation to gather together with professionals and with volunteers who care to make a difference. I hope you’ll join me at ACTFL 2023 in Chicago. Please take a look at the ACTFL website, actfl.org, to learn more about the organization, to become a member, to learn about benefits, to learn about the convention, and I hope to register for and come to the convention and have the experience of a professional lifetime. So I look forward to sharing again with you next week. And until then, please think about how you gather and how you make a difference.

Thank you for always focusing on the possibilities, opportunities and the power of language and what it can do for us individually - and collectively!

Elizabeth Mack

If you've never done #cliftonstrengths, yourself or with your team, don't wait any longer.  Norah Jones of FLUENCY CONSULTING is the one and only to do it! It's all about your super powers: finding & using them to affect positive change in the world. What's not to love?!

Elizabeth Mack
Founder and CEO / Freestyle Languages


Yes, @NorahLulicJones definitely has the talent of "bringing out" the best in others or allowing them to showcase themselves in the best light! Thank you for directing the spotlight on others who have great stories and talents to share with others. 

Lisa Fore


Your podcasts are exceptionally relevant and applicable, thought-provoking and insightful, easy-to-follow and enjoyable!  

Paul Sandrock
Senior Advisor for Language Learning Initiatives / ACTFL


You have an immense talent to draw the best from your participants. 

Richard Brecht


Norah knows how to LISTEN - she really "hears" the message - and the interview is richer because of it.  New questions come from the hearing. 

Terri Marlow

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