Simon Pearlman attended the FECEI Annual Conference in Madrid, on Valentine’s Day 2015, and reviewed his experience as a language school manager and an English teacher during the following interview.
Did you have a good Valentine’s Day?
Well, for me this year it wasn’t particularly romantic. Instead, it was the annual FECEI conference in Madrid! There were about 200 teachers, trainers and EFL managers gathered to listen, share and be. It was amazing to see so many people there on a Saturday and on Valentine’s Day to boot! Didn’t you know about it?
Err, yes, of course I did! Was it a good conference?
Yes, it was great! There was a good mixture of talks by a range of speakers, some speakers were seasoned pros and others were making their first conference presentations. It was a friendly conference and the plenary by Adrian Underhill was inspiring.
Great! Sorry to ask, what is FECEI? I’m sure I should know, I’ve heard of it, but what is it?
FECEI is the Spanish national association of language schools and is made up principally of the regional associations and their members, as well as some independent members. Nearly all regions in Spain have an association of language schools and some of those associations are more vibrant than others, ACEIA (the Andalusian association) is the biggest and probably the most active.
So, what does FECEI do?
FECEI attempts to represent language schools in Spain in all official negotiations, for example and probably most importantly, it negotiates the official “convenio” as well as dealing with other national level negotiations and representations. In Spain, each sector has it’s own “convenio”, which sets out the minimum legal requirements we work within; it sets the minimum legal pay, holidays, working conditions, etc. It is important that teachers are aware of the “convenio” in order to be aware of the rights and responsibilities.
Yes, the “convenio”! Again, I’ve heard of it but have never been sure of what it is. I think I should check it out. It sounds like I should know about it.
Yes, you should, we all should. I should warn you, though, it’s not a light read, it’s written in pretty technical Spanish and is a bit hard to get into.
So FECEI negotiates that. Wow, that sounds really important.
Yes, it is. However, FECEI is a small voice at the negotiating table and is actively looking for new members to further increase it’s representation and it’s voice during these negotiations.
So, what does it do for us teachers and other ELT professionals?
Well, one of it’s priorities is training and the yearly conference is one of those events. I love going to conferences. Conferences can give us so much; we can be inspired by talks and we can meet other teachers too. Sometimes, we can feel a little isolated in our day-to-day work and conferences allow us to connect with other people and feel part of something that is bigger than the school we happen to be working in. The FECEI conference brings people together from all over Spain and it feels great to connect with teachers from outside Cadiz and all over Spain. For me, personally, conferences are a really great way of catching up with colleagues who I haven’t seen for ages, have a gossip and unashamedly talk shop over a beer or two!
This year the conference theme was relationships, which particularly resonates with me. I believe that language and relationships go hand-in-hand whether we are teaching, learning or simply using languages. There were a whole range of talks on practical teaching techniques, teacher development and commercial presentations. There were also sessions for managers and, unusually and interestingly, a number of talks aimed at both teachers and managers.
So, FECEI negotiates at a national level and holds a conference. Is there anything else we should know about it?
I think it’s important to know what’s going on in our sector on all sorts of different levels. If we know what’s what, we can hopefully find the best jobs with the best conditions in the best language schools in Spain. If you want more information, there’s the FECEI website www.fecei.org and there’s a FECEI.org Facebook page too.
So, it was a good Valentine’s Day then?
Yes, it was. It was good. Different. And the AVE is an amazing train!