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Sept 2013: Update from the directors, JALT mission statement

Update from the Board of Directors

The Board of Directors and the JALT Publications Board held a weekend retreat on 8-9 June 2013 at Kochi University. This annual retreat is crucial to getting our heads up above the day-to-day tasks of keeping JALT running and planning for the long-term. This year was especially useful because both groups were able to meet at the same time. While each board conducted business separately most of the weekend, we did exchange information, plans, and proposals. This kind of joint retreat is especially important for the Publications Board because all of the editors work on their own and coordinate online. Email, videoconferencing, and even good old fashioned phone calls, are wonderful, but sometimes you just can’t beat the discussion and ideas that germinate during a weekend together face-to-face.

One of those ideas was that the workings of JALT should be more visible in the pages of TLT. In the coming year, you can look forward to an introduction of the hardworking JALT Central Office staff, reports on plans and meetings, and direct communication from members of the Board of Directors. So, to get things started, here is a short conversation between Ted O’Neill, Director of Public Relations, and Steve Cornwell, Director of Program.

Ted: Steve, I’ll start right away with the last line of that introduction. Before joining the board, I had an idea that roles were very strictly defined. JALT members may think so too. Other education organizations just have generic “members of the board” without publicly stated responsibilities. How would you describe the way board members work together?

Steve: Having served on two boards now I have been really impressed with the give and take and the supportive nature of the board members both personally and for JALT. I like that the board members do not “take positions” but rather really try to consider issues from all sides and also consider the varied constituencies within JALT before coming up with a slate of possible actions.

Ted: Right. Representing all of JALT or the whole Board of Directors sometimes means putting my own preferences aside in favor of a consensus that includes everyone. I think our “all for one” approach means we can all pitch in and share in the creative work that is fun and rewarding. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Pre-Conference Planning Committee for the first time and trying to help make JALT2013 and 2014 the best they can be. How does that all come together?

Steve: A lot of JALT members don’t know the number of people that are involved in planning and running the conference. Nor are they familiar with a lot of the behind the scenes work such as preparing the handbook, setting up the publishers’ exhibition area, organizing social events, and even making sure there are good presentations to attend. Related to presentations, recently there was an email discussion on EBM-Net among the Executive Board members about how proposals move through the “conference system” to become a presentation. 

Ted: I can say as someone who has been both accepted and rejected by various conferences (including JALT national and group events) it can seem a bit mysterious. I’ve sometimes found myself sitting in a presentation wondering “How did that get in, when my ‘wonderful one hour workshop proposal’ didn’t?”

Steve: Although it does not make anyone feel better, being “rejected” does not mean the proposal was bad--it just means that it was not rated as highly as the accepted ones by the reading committee. TLT readers should know that the readers can only rate proposals. Unfortunately, proposals and actual presentations can be very different. In the past, we’ve considered evaluating presentations but that proved impractical.

Ted: Who are the readers? And, how do they join the committee?

Steve: The committee is comprised of volunteers. The volunteers nominate themselves and indicate which type of abstracts they are comfortable in reading. Most volunteers have supplied a resume including their history of presentations or simply a verification that they have presented multiples times in the language teaching field. We always welcome new qualified readers. Interested JALT members should contact Paul Stapleton at <paulstapleton@gmail.com> for more information.

Ted: Thanks, Steve. The conference is just around the corner, but I hope it isn’t too soon to say Otsukaresama!

 

JALT Mission Statement

Hello everyone! I hope that you are enjoying a bit of a break from regular duties, and I also hope you are planning to join us in October in Kobe at the annual JALT Conference!

At this time, it is my great pleasure to introduce the just-adopted JALT mission statement (English version):

“JALT promotes excellence in language learning, teaching, and research by providing opportunities for those involved in language education to meet, share, and collaborate.” 

As you can see, at its core this statement asserts that JALT promotes excellence in language education, a worthy goal indeed. Further, it explains that we do this by bringing like-minded people together so they can help each other improve themselves and develop their abilities.

For 39 years JALT did not have a mission statement, although we had a fairly clear idea of who we were and what our purpose was. Now that we have crystallized our thinking about our mission, I believe our next 39 years and more will be even more successful.

I am also very proud to introduce Wayne Malcolm, the chair of the Mission Statement Committee, who shepherded the mission statement through discussions at administrative meetings and led the committee’s extensive online collaboration. Wayne can let us know more about how the mission statement was made and why it is so important for us to have. Take it away, Wayne!

Wayne: Thank you, Kevin, and greetings to all! I’m really glad to have this opportunity to explain a bit about how the mission statement came about and why we have one. In essence, our mission statement defines what JALT is, and why JALT exists. A mission statement is not just a bunch of words that might look good on a banner or T-shirt, or might sound catchy as a sound bite. No, a mission statement is a tool that, when used properly, can guide an organization through decision making ventures and strategic planning efforts. A sound mission statement is something an organization keeps going back to in times of prosperity and crisis. It is a source to draw on for inspiration and steadfastness. 

Of course any mission statement is only as good as the effort that was put into creating it. In our case, this English language mission statement (a Japanese version is currently in the process of being drafted) is the result of 19 months of hard work and dedication by the committee members in particular, and the JALT Executive Board, which is made of Chapter and SIG representatives and national officers, as a whole. 

Starting from when Kevin posted a message to the Executive Board mailing list on November 30, 2011, asking for volunteers to help draft a mission statement, and commencing with a formal motion at the June 2013 Executive Board Meeting in Kyoto, the draft mission statements exhibited many forms and lengths. As this was a fully democratic and transparent process, this sort of effort and dedication were to be expected. Ideas were presented, discussed, and debated until the final version was accepted by a unanimous vote of approval by the Executive Board. 

There may be some who think mission statements are not necessary as long as the people leading the organization are sound, and they may be right, but even sound people can lose focus or be left without the appropriate expressions. Consider the simple, or not so simple, task of actually articulating what JALT is. Imagine trying to convey the essence of something for which you feel a great deal of passion. Do the right words come to mind immediately? It is likely that you need to reflect a lot before you can choose the best way to communicate what it is about the source of your passion that is so important to you. 

Those of us who volunteer for JALT spend a lot of our personal time making sure our chapters, SIGs, and the national organization operate to the utmost level of excellence. Our mission statement is the embodiment, and an articulation, of that passion. Using it we can communicate to others, and to ourselves, why JALT exists and why we devote our time and energy to keep JALT going in the best manner possible.

The professional ambition of those affiliated with JALT is expressed in the language “promotes excellence in language teaching, learning, and research.” Furthermore, this mission statement is meant to sound, and to be, inclusive. Specifically, JALT “provides opportunities for those involved in language education to meet, share, and collaborate.” With these words we show that JALT does not want to limit itself to any specific area of the language learning community, but rather is ready to include all who wish to help others promote excellence in language education.

I would also like to note that the mission statement shows that we are not at all willing to rest on our laurels, but instead strive to make the communities of practice we exist in environments of constant high-level sustainability by reaching for excellence in all they do. Our mission statement is a means to support these worthy processes of continuous improvement. 

Again, many thanks to all who worked on the JALT mission statement committee or gave us feedback, and to the entire Executive Board for giving us the time to discuss the drafts and valuable input. I really appreciated the opportunity to work with everyone on this project, and look forward to continuing to help JALT do its great work and fulfill its mission.

Kevin: And many thanks to you, too, Wayne! I would just like to mention that the mission statement really comes alive when viewed in context on jalt.org, as the photos, publications, and listings of meetings and other activities sponsored by our chapters and SIGs epitomize the way we meet, share, and collaborate as we make every effort to achieve excellence in language education. Of course, if you can make it to our conference in Kobe you will also have a great chance to see the JALT mission statement in action.

Do you have any ideas on how JALT can better accomplish its mission? If so, please send a message to feedback@jalt.org. Thank you again, Wayne and all, and see you in Kobe!

 

Position available

TLT Associate Editor

The Language Teacher is seeking a qualified candidate for the position of Associate Editor, with future advancement to the position of Coeditor. Applicants must be JALT members and must have the knowledge, skills, and leadership qualities to oversee the production of a regularly published academic publication. Previous experience in publications, especially at an editorial level, is an asset. Knowledge of JALT publications is desirable. Applicants must also have regular access to a computer with email and word processing capabilities.

 

Job details

This post requires several hours of concentrated work every week editing articles, scheduling and overseeing production, and liaising with the Publications Board. Applicants should be prepared to make a minimum three-year commitment with an extension possible. The assumption of duties is tentatively scheduled for early 2014. Applicants should submit a curriculum vitae (including details of publication background and published works), a cover letter, and a statement of purpose indicating why they would like to become Associate Editor (and later advance to Coeditor) of The Language Teacher, to: Darren Lingley, JALT Publications Board Chair, at pubchair@jalt-publications.org. This position will remain open until filled.

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