Written by: Anna Parisi, SEETA  Project  Leader
TESOL Macedonia – THRACE Northern Greece, Vice Chair
The people
I’ve just arrived in Sofia and I can already  hear Greek being spoken around me. When I ask a grinning  clerk at the train station where I can get a bus to the city centre he  immediately leaves his booth  to walk with me to the bus stop so that I don’t get lost. The BETA Bulgaria board have advised me not to take a taxi outside the train station because I’ll probably be overcharged.  I could be in Greece!
On the bus I’m thinking aloud where to get off and the woman standing next to me clears away my worries in perfect Greek. She is married to a Greek doctor and divides her time between Sofia and Thessaloniki. The hotel receptionist welcomes me with a wide grin and we chat about tavernas in Thessaloniki. I take a brief walk in the spectacular city centre, which is full of beautiful churches, mosques and a bustling market very much like Modiano. The traffic is chaotic and I, along with lots of others jay walkers and motorists perform a harmonious city dance, timed to perfection due to practice over the years. A skill that has kept us all alive up to date. I could be in Greece!
BETA  Bulgaria
When I arrive at the conference venue, I’m instantly surrounded by  BETA board members , who look after me and are always cheerful, available and obliging throughout the two hectic days of the conference.  We talk about the challenges that BETA  Bulgaria are facing : organizing and funding events, finding suitable  but cheap/ free venues for these events, sustaining and increasing the number of their members, raising young teachers’ interest in the organization, the substantial rise in the cost of living without a comparative rise in wages. This has resulted in many teachers undertaking two or even three jobs, which leaves no time to extra commitments such as being an active member of a professional organization. 
Despite the odds, BETA Bulgaria are remarkably active thanks to the zeal of the executive board and the support of their sponsors. I could be in Greece!
The SEETA  Project
BETA are also one of the seven, so far, participant Teachers’  Associations  in the SEETA project, which is led by TESOL MACEDONIA – THRACE  Northern Greece and funded by the  BRITISH  COUNCIL Greece.  The  SEETA   electronic networking  project  aims to set up a virtual community for the benefit of all ELT practitioners in South- Eastern Europe.
SEETA stands for South–Eastern Europe Teachers’ Associations.
At the conference, I give a 45-minute presentation to introduce the project to the membership. Also, I address the members at the BETA  AGM , where we discuss ways in which members can be active now, in the project’s initial stages  by submitting articles with practical teaching ideas and/ or solutions to problems we face every day in the classroom. These will be loaded up onto the SEETA  site. The members are enthusiastic at the SEETA  project but at the same time questioning their expertise and value of their own ideas and teaching practices.  “Our ideas can’t be as good as those coming from leading ELT  authors.”   “We do simple things. How interesting can they be ?” members ask me. I could be in Greece!
Ideas from teachers at the chalkface are invaluable. Effective solutions to classroom management problems can only come from practising teachers. Simple ideas that work is  what we all need.  Along with great ideas from leading authors  who are sending their articles for the SEETA site !
Back to the conference
The BETA conference is a big success. The plenaries are interesting and informative conducted by well-known speakers such as Gary Anderson, Philip Kerr, Chaz Pugliese and Olha Madylus. The conference presentations and workshops are impressively diverse:

  • — Teacher: enjoy yourself or you’ll bore us !
  • — New tendencies in teaching ESP
  • — Intercultural training of learners of English
  • — Adding sights and sound to the English lesson
  • — Ideas for Internet – based  CALL projects

to name but a few. The presenters come from eight different countries.
But what makes this conference so  special is the teachers. Enthusiastic, cheerful and chatty.  Warm, friendly and loud.   I could be in Greece!
I would like to thank the BRITISH COUNCIL GREECE  for sponsoring my trip to Bulgaria.