The Tokyo Expo and ETJ’s role in building up the language teaching community

Terry Yearley, ETJ


The 2010 Tokyo English Language (TEL) Book Fair and Expo was held at Toyo Gakuen University’s Hongo Campus on November 6thand 7th. A range of textbooks, products, and services were on display, and we hosted more than 80 presentations, about half of which were given by local teachers. Sponsored presenters included Paul Nation, whom we were very pleased to welcome back for a second year.Paul gave two presentations on the Sunday, one on vocabulary and one on fluency. Also, teachers who use a particular textbook may well have found that there was a presentation showing them how to get the best from that textbook. However, it was the increase in the number of presentations by local teachers that was particularly impressive this year.

For the organizing committee, our first job was to find local presenters who were willing to give up their time on a weekend. I am always amazed at how unselfish my colleagues can be. Those who submitted proposals included university lecturers, high school teachers, and PhD/MA candidates and researchers who reported on their findings. Also, it is not unusual for presenters to use the Expo as a rehearsal for an upcoming “gig”at the JALT National Conference. However, some of the most popular presentations this year were given by “ordinary”(sorry) teachers who simply shared some teaching ideas.

Our vetting team played a crucial role.They read each proposal, and gave their ideas on how it could be improved. In fact, very few proposals were accepted in their original form, and many had to be redrafted several times. Of course, this is part of the process, and we work willingly with the prospective presenter to produce an appropriate description of what they plan to do. Once the list of presenters was finalised, two ladies worked long into the night to make badges for them and for the volunteers.

On the weekend of the Expo, our team of volunteers came from two main sources: the local ETJ (English Teachers in Japan) groups in Chiba, Saitama, and Tokyo, and students from Toyo Gakuen University. They performed tasks such as registering the attendees, giving directions, and preparing the audio/visual equipment prior to each presentation. The audio/visual facilities at Toyo Gakuen are a presenter’s dream, but we depend on a small tech support team to make the preparations and ensure thateverything runs smoothly. The student volunteers are always terrific. They give a full day’s work for just a curry lunch and the chance (maybe) to speak English with some native speakers.At the end of the 2010 Tokyo Expo, when we volunteers got together in the local “pub,”we found that we all agreed that we got a whole lot more out of the experience of volunteering than we had put in.

Our Expo is one of the Expos held nationwide each year by ETJ. The first Expos were held in 2003, and the Tokyo English Language (TEL) Book Fair was merged into the Tokyo Expo in 2005. TEL had been the main annual event for English language teachers in Tokyo for over 20years. The presentations at TEL were all commercial, and it was only a core group of publishers that were able to have displays. Since the two events were merged, the percentage of non-commercial presentations by local teachers has steadily increased, and more and more small publishers or individual teachers with self-developed materials have been having displays.

It is very encouraging to see ETJ and JALT working more closely together and supporting each other on both a national and a local level. It is becoming increasingly clear that the two associations complement each other. ETJ seems to be particularly effective in reaching out to the classroom teacher who may not even realise the value of getting involved in an association or the importance of professional development. One of the reasons ETJ has no membership fee is to make it as easy as possible for these teachers to cross the threshold. Once they join, they may discover a world where teachers share ideas, get additional training, and help each other reach their full potential as teachers. In time, some of these teachers become more involved in ELT in Japan, join JALT, go to an ETJ Expo or JALT conference, and may even become very active members of JALT.

We very much hope that ETJ and JALT will find more ways to cooperate with each other to support the professional development of language teachers in Japan.

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