Showcase: Adam Murray


In this edition of Showcase, Adam Murray shares the path he took toward building his career in English as a Foreign Language teaching in Japan.

Adam Murray

Like many people I know, the first steps of my teaching journey were rather unintentional. When I graduated with a degree in Business Administration in the spring of 1997, the Canadian economy was in a bit of a slump. Faced with large student loan payments and intense competition for entry-level positions, I decided that I would come to Japan on the Working Holiday Programme to look for work. I figured that if things didn’t work out as planned, my time in Japan would just be an extensive (and rather expensive) vacation.

Arriving in Japan in November 1997 with no marketable skills, the only work I was qualified for was at English conversation schools. For the next couple of years, I mainly taught conversation classes at one of the large eikaiwa chains. In 2001 I was fortunate to obtain a position as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Omiya City. Although I enjoyed my work as an ALT, I was still unsure if I wanted to remain in Japan or even make a career out of teaching.

The JALT2003 Conference played a crucial role in helping me to make an important decision about my career. Although I attended only one day of the conference, it left a lasting impression on me. As a first time conference attendee and new JALT member, I had no idea what to expect or even how to select which presentations to attend! During the course of the day, I quickly realized that there was a lot more to English as a Foreign Language teaching than what takes place in the classroom. After watching a wide range of presentations throughout the day on topics such as materials and technology, I knew that I had much to learn if I wanted to continue teaching long-term. In addition, I was convinced that it would be worth the investment in time and energy to improve my qualifications. 

I decided that I would dedicate myself to professional development. While continuing to work fulltime as an ALT, I completed a Master of Arts in English Language Teaching from the University of Technology, Sydney. In addition, I decided that I would be an active member of Omiya JALT, my local chapter. When the opportunity arose, I also became an officer of the Junior/Senior High Special Interest Group. Finally, I decided to attend as many conferences as I could afford in the Kanto region. 

In terms of self-development, JALT offers a number of opportunities at the chapter and national level. For those who are looking to advance in their careers, presentations and publications are essential. After gaining confidence and experience by participating in My Share events at my local chapter, I made my debut conference presentation at the 2006 Pan-SIG conference in Shizuoka. I was fortunate to have a small but receptive audience (Thank you Maria and Joe!). Since then, I have made several presentations each year. In addition to gaining presentation experience, I have developed a range of organizational skills by working in a variety of roles at the chapter level (program chair, treasurer, president), SIG level (website, publicity), and as part of the conference committee (intern coordinator). Regardless of your physical location in Japan and amount of time you have to commit, there are plenty of opportunities to become involved!

One of the most interesting opportunities for collaboration that I was presented with was to co-author a classroom textbook with Tetsuro Fujii, a well-established Japanese author whom I had originally met over a curry lunch at a one-day vocabulary conference the year before. Knowing that unsolicited textbook proposals are rarely successful, I jumped at such a wonderful opportunity. Also, the premise of the textbook was attractive to me — a textbook about health topics such as allergies and sports injuries for non-medical majors. The resulting textbook, Health Matters: Health Awareness for College Students, is a book with a number of unique features of which I am still quite proud. Throughout the writing process, I also learned a lot about the publishing process, and gained an appreciation for the seemingly endless energy and ideas that prolific authors have. 

For me personally, so much has changed in the past decade. When I joined JALT, I was still unsure if I wanted to remain in Japan or even make a career out of teaching. Since joining JALT, I have left the public education sector and now teach at the Shimizu (Shizuoka) Campus of Tokai University. I am also pursuing a doctoral degree in education (EdD) at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It is now safe to assume that I have decided my career path! 


Adam Murray is currently teaching at the Shimizu Campus of Tokai University. His research interests include listening instruction, materials development, and assessment. In his free time, he enjoys marine sports such as scuba diving and surfing. 

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