In our second post in the Meet MaWSIG series, Aleksandra Popovski, the coordinator of MaWSIG, tells how she came to join the SIG.
When I first joined MaWSIG in 2016, it never occurred to me that I would one day be the Coordinator. I decided to join MaWSIG after researching professional groups (including IATEFL SIGs) that could help me improve my writing and be in touch with what is happening in the publishing world. So, when I saw MaWSIG’s call for an events coordinator, I thought to myself, ‘Hey, why not? It could be fun!’
I actually joined the committee as an events coordinator only because there were no other candidates who submitted a nomination, so Rachael Roberts, MaWSIG coordinator at the time, and the other committee members were stuck with me. I took advantage of Google and did some research but that was it, no personal connections whatsoever. Anyway, it didn’t feel strange or awkward to be part of a group of people I didn’t know at all. Our first Skype meeting felt like I had always been part of the committee. Everyone was really nice, supportive, and ready to answer all my questions.
When Rachael and Tania Pattison decided to step down as the joint MaWSIG coordinators and no one else on the committee wanted the job, again I thought, ‘Hey, why not?’ I’ve always liked a challenge and a challenge it is. It’s a challenge because there are quite a lot of things to do as a coordinator and the role carries much more responsibility than can be put into one blog post.
As a coordinator, you have to keep up with all the latest news and information, not just about the SIG and matters connected to its aims but also to the whole association. IATEFL has several handbooks and I, as a coordinator, have to be familiar with all of them in order for the SIG not to break any rules or go against any IATEFL policies. I believe that rules and policies are an essential part of any organisation, and following them is crucial for the success of the organisation and all its parts. So, very often, during our meetings, I say, ‘Let me check with HO’ (IATEFL Head Office). That is then followed by an email or two to Eleanor and Freya (in charge of all SIG matters and first point of contact for the SIGs) and, if necessary, to Judith (SIG Representative), Louise (Deputy CEO) or Jon (CEO). They are all always ready to answer any queries I might have, and nothing is ever a silly question for them.
Our weekly meetings are what make our SIG committee so connected and organised. At one point, we did try having fortnightly meetings but we soon dropped that because we all felt we were missing out on something. I update the minutes before every meeting (agenda points, action points), and then before and during the meeting, all committee members contribute to the minutes with their ideas and action points. I read the minutes after every meeting and make a list of things I need to do.
The least favourite thing I have to do as the coordinator is … the budgets. I don’t think anyone likes to deal with budgets but IATEFL is very strict about them. All SIG budgets have to be approved by IATEFL before we can start organising and announcing any event, face-to-face or online. PCE and annual budgets are essential for planning the most important SIG events, and I spend hours going over them, making sure I have every number right.
Finally, I have to say that the best thing about being part of IATEFL and MaWSIG is the people – ELT professionals from different contexts with different experience and knowledge to share. It is wonderful to be part of such an amazing community. I have made friends from different parts of the world, and attending the IATEFL annual conference is one professional event I always look forward to. The IATEFL annual conference and the MaWSIG PCE give me the opportunity to see friends, chat, go to talks and workshops, and learn new things. MAWSIG is more than a SIG; it’s a close-knit community of like-minded professionals and friends.
Worst MaWSIG moment so far: I can’t really think of one.
Best MaWSIG moment so far: opening our 2019 PCE for the first time as Coordinator. Imagine the scene: the Crystals in the first row, a lot of people from my MA thesis reference list in the audience, and there I am, a completely unknown name in the publishing world, a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina, welcoming all these wonderful people to our PCE. It might not mean much to others, but for me, being where I am now, it means a lot.
Wish for MaWSIG in the future: to grow even more in diversity, inclusion and professionalism.
Aleksandra Popovski has an MA in Professional Development in Language Education from the University of Chichester, UK. She is a translator, teacher trainer and invited speaker at international conferences. Her professional memberships include TESOL (US) and IATEFL (UK). She is the current president of ELTAM MK (English Language Teachers’ Association of the Republic of North Macedonia) and Coordinator for the IATEFL Materials Writing SIG.