By Omar Longus
I’m always happy to learn, reconnect with colleagues and meet new friends at TESOL. The session I’ll carry with me most was Color, Race and ELT: Shades of Meaning: 10 Years Later. A panel of authors reflected on a book they had collaborated on, and it was inspiring and insightful to hear their stories and their journeys. It reaffirmed my stance that we need to have more discussions around race and identity at TESOL, and also made me curious about where I’ll be in ten years.
However, my most vivid memory from TESOL will be my chance encounter with Saiful Mondal.
Thursday night, after a full day of sessions, a wonderful dinner with members of the BELPaF forum and night time conversations at the Sheraton, I ordered an uber to meet a friend at a bar. My driver was Saiful. In our fourteen minute ride I learned about Saiful and his family. He learned about me as well. When I explained I taught ESOL he told me about how he had emigrated from Bangladesh where he was an associate professor, and how after earning a Master’s degree in TESOL here in the U.S. years ago, he is still looking for work beyond inconsistent adjunct positions and driving for uber. When we arrived at my destination I told him to meet me Friday morning at the convention, unsure if I would see him again.
He came; and I was able to introduce him to some of my friends, show him around the convention, and share connections to help look for a full-time position. Most importantly, Saiful and I had more time to get to know each other. We talked about family, work, religion, pedagogy, culture, politics and life. Saiful gave me a ride from the conference as a token of friendship and gratitude, and he may never know how fortunate I was also to have met him. I know I have a friend in Baltimore the next time I go, but I hope that the next time I see Saiful will be at a TESOL convention, where he is attending as a participant and not a guest. We need more educators like him, and it’s the TESOL magic that happens outside of the convention walls that may have added a little extra water to the seed of that dream. Small encounters with new friends make me thankful for the profession I have chosen, and hopeful that I will be able to attend the 100th anniversary and celebrate an old friend’s wedding.