JALT members present at the 2011 Osaka JET Skills Development Conference

Patrick Brophy


In 2011, the Association of JET (AJET) Programme participants began working more closely with its new domestic partner, JALT, in a number of ways. This has included sharing JALT's teaching resources with JETs across the country, and most notably, inviting JALT members to present at annual JET Skills Development Conferences (SDCs). On December 8, an SDC was held in Osaka, and several speakers were provided by JALT, giving the conference a new professional and academic edge.

The planning for the event began before the summer break, with Osaka JET and National AJET Chair Matthew Cook connecting SDC organizers (including myself, as Osaka AJET President) with JALT Domestic Affairs Committee Chair Rick Bales and Osaka JALT Chapter President Bob Sanderson. After a long planning and organizational process, a full day of sessions led by JALT members was arranged for December 8th at the Osaka Prefecture Education Center in Abiko, with around 100 JETs scheduled to attend.

The first speaker was Steven Herder, from Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts, presenting Professional Development Through Collaboration. During this insightful presentation, the 100-person audience was reminded of the many common problems ALTs face in Japanese schools. Herder not only showed how to deal with these problems, but also showed how to adjust your own attitude in order to make work and life easier. One participant said that he had “learned more in the first presentation than he had learned in the entirety of his previous four conferences.”

Steve Cornwell, JALT Director of Programs, followed and gave all the members a handout with a number of motivational activities that only take five minutes. These activities could be adapted to all school levels, from elementary to high schools. The JET participants left this presentation anxiously clutching the print they got from Cornwell, excited and eager to try these new activities in their schools, certain that they could motivate their students to study English.

After lunch, Shirley Leane, all the way from Tottori University, gave her presentation: Choosing Appropriate Activities for the Classroom. After laying a solid foundation of English education theory history, Leane led the participants through a series of group exercises, creating lessons and evaluating them based on the various teaching styles. This analysis of styles gave JETs a great opportunity to reflect on the learning methods incorporated in their lessons and how to make them more effective with that knowledge.

During the last time slot of the day, James Rogers, of Kansai Gaidai, showed how to improve student motivation and memory through the use of games. By getting us to play these games ourselves, Rogers was able to show how his adaptable, fun-for-all-ages activities could be incorporated into the classroom. “I can’t wait to try this at school!” was overheard more than once.

In a concurrent session, Bob Sanderson facilitated a workshop entitled Developing our Personal Philosophies of Teaching and Learning. This challenged us to think about our own ideas and approaches to education, and posed several thought-provoking questions that left more than a few JETs deep in thought about how to approach our work in the future.

At the end of the day, my sense was that everyone went home much more satisfied and intellectually fulfilled than at past conferences. The JALT presenters had given everyone lots of food for thought. Many JETs have studied education in their home countries, while others have had no formal background in education. But regardless of background, every JET seemed to leave the conference with something they could take to school to and immediately put into practice. The insights of the speakers, gleaned from their own teaching experience, motivated and reassured us of our important roles as ALTs.

This first co-operation of its kind between JETs and JALT was a resounding success. As the organizers reviewed the feedback sheets completed by the JETs, it was clear that this was one of the best Osaka Prefectural JET Skills Development Conferences yet. On behalf of all Osaka JETs, I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to all the presenters who took time out of their busy schedules and to all those at JALT who helped make the 2011 Osaka SDC such a resounding success. We are excited and looking forward to more opportunities to work together with JALT in the future.

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