This is the first post in a new series of blog posts, Meet MaWSIG, where members of our committee will introduce themselves and talk about their work and experiences on the committee. We start with Clare Maas, Joint Events Coordinator.

Our MaWSIG coordinator, Aleks, recently asked me if I’m happy to stay on the MaWSIG committee after my standard three-year term is up. My first response was, ‘Three years can’t have passed already!’ And then, ‘Absolutely.’ Of course, if someone else out there is eager to get involved as an Events Coordinator for MaWSIG (please let us know!), I definitely don’t want to stand in their way, but otherwise I’m more than happy to continue. In this post, I’d like to give MaWSIG members and blog followers a peek behind the scenes, so to speak, and let you know what I enjoy so much about being on the MaWSIG committee. 

First, I should tell you that I’m one of three Events Coordinators, and my main area of responsibility is online events. This means that, with the help and support of my joint Events Coordinators and the Technology Coordinator, I do the emailing, Skype chatting, webinar room booking and flyer designing that goes into arranging a MaWSIG webinar – from thinking up topic ideas and approaching suitable speakers to hosting the webinar on the day. Being well-organised, consistent and somewhat creative are probably the most important talents here, alongside some basic computer skills. I like this work, as I can easily fit it around my real job – though that is probably true of all MaWSIG committee roles. I still get nervous when I say that first ‘OK everyone, looks like it’s time to start’ line, though!

When I first joined the committee, we didn’t have this division of Events responsibilities, so I was rather thrown in at the deep end, co-organising the PCE and Showcase events for the IATEFL conference, as well as separate MaWSIG events and webinars. I must admit, it was sometimes challenging learning about all the IATEFL guidelines and the full scope of the planning that goes into events like this (seriously, we have a list of who’s bringing drawing pins!), but I’ve learnt some new skills and have deepened my appreciation of the various constraints that different people and organisations are working under. I wasn’t alone, of course, as the other Events Coordinators and rest of the MaWSIG committee are all supportive and ready to muck in – there’s a great team spirit that ensures everything gets done on time. Still, keeping up with priority tasks and maintaining good communication with everyone involved took up more of my time than focusing on the online events side of things. Also, being the main online events coordinator now, I have a bit more freedom to make decisions and plans. This speeds things up a bit and has enabled me to arrange a couple of thematically linked webinar series over the last couple of years, which I hope you’ve all enjoyed and profited from.

Apart from developing my own skills in this role, the other thing I really appreciate are the people it has brought me into contact with. I have such great colleagues on the MaWSIG committee and on other SIGs’ committees that I’ve been able to work with. Being on the committee also gives me an ‘official excuse’ to talk to such a wide range of people at all of our events, or email them about webinars and so on. I’ve made lots of contacts that have been helpful and inspiring even beyond my MaWSIG work. I’m still figuring out the best path from ‘Hi, I helped organise this event; would you like a free pencil?’ to ‘Oh, you’re a commissioning editor; fancy publishing my book?’ but being on the committee has opened up ways for me to meet interesting people from all different walks of ELT. I admit to having sensed a moment or two of imposter syndrome on being greeted with hugs when I first met such ‘ELT stars’ as Rachael Roberts, Tania Pattison and Lewis Lansford (all former MaWSIG committee members); however, after months of MaWSIG meetings on Skype, I’ve come to see that this is typical of the almost familial community feeling we have within the whole of MaWSIG. And it makes me quietly proud to think that the events and webinars I co-organise can help to strengthen these bonds between teachers, writers, editors and publishers around the world. If you’d like to experience it for yourself, please do join us for our next webinar, and come and say hello at our PCE or Open Forum at IATEFL 2021 – you’ll spot me and the other MaWSIG committee members by our specially-made badges. I look forward to making even more new contacts! 

Worst MaWSIG moment so far: Forgetting the USB stick with the slides for my own presentation at the Oxford Brookes conference because I was so taken up with arranging everything else for the event! (I typed up new slides during the coffee break. Don’t know if anyone noticed. The secret’s out now!)

Wish for MaWSIG in the future: Getting more people from more diverse parts of the world more involved.

Clare Maas has been an EAP lecturer for 13 years now, having completed an MA in German & Translation and the Trinity College Dip. TESOL. Before moving to Trier, she taught English at two German secondary schools, and English for Specific Purposes at several language academies in the UK and Germany. She has co-authored student workbooks and coursebooks published by the German publishers Schroedel and Hueber, and is currently writing for the English learners’ magazine Spotlight, based in Germany.