Involvement in a SIG can be a chance for personal and professional growth and a rewarding—sometimes even transformative—experience. They can offer camaraderie, a chance to find others with shared interests, opportunities for leadership, and chances to present and publish. For the rest of 2020, the SIG Focus column will be featuring the voices of different SIG members. If you have a reflection to share, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Falling in Love with SIGs
Performance in Education SIG Conferences Chair
I came to Japan almost a decade before SIGs were formed and so having experienced JALT with and without SIGs, I much prefer it with SIGs because they have enriched my professional life with increased chances to publish, present, and network with people who have similar interests. When I first arrived in Japan in 1982, I was too busy with my new job teaching English at a junior high school to get much involved in JALT besides a visit to the local chapter. After my four-year contract finished, I went to San Francisco State University for my MA in TEFL and got a job teaching English at a university in Nagoya. So, busy with a completely new job, JALT was not even on the horizon except for a conference. However, in 1993, I became a founding officer in the newly-formed CALL SIG. I then became the coordinator. Then, in 2012, I was the founding coordinator of the Performance in Education (PIE) SIG. After two years, I stepped down and later became the Conferences Chair.
These experiences in these two SIGs taught me the value being a member of a SIG– the wide pool of expertise, the depth of discussion with like-minded and sometimes unlike-minded people that helped me grow in my professionalism, and the excitement of being an active member of a professional organization. Now, in the PIE SIG, I feel the warmth of camaraderie, amazement at the quality of members’ presentations, publications, and performances, and gratefulness at the support I receive from fellow officers. I think that my present position, Conferences Chair, is my favorite. Here, I can create the kind of conferences I enjoy – the kind of conference that helps me grow as a teacher and as a person, and that allows me to network with colleagues and friends. All of these benefits started by volunteering to work in a SIG.
Why I Am Involved with GALE SIG
Quenby Hoffman Aoki
GALE SIG Coordinator
In the fall of 2017, a group of us from the GALE SIG went to karaoke after a weekend conference. My memory may not be completely accurate, but what I recall clearly is the previous coordinator, a longtime friend who had run GALE for years and was very much ready to move on and pursue other interests, looked me in the eye and stated in no uncertain terms that without a new coordinator the SIG would probably have to dissolve, according to JALT by-laws. Someone had to step up, and in that moment, it was me. This brief reflective essay barely scratches the surface of how much my life has been changed by this experience. Representing GALE, I’ve had to stand up and advocate for issues such as adding “Nonbinary” as a gender identity on the JALT membership site and providing childcare at JALT conferences. I often find myself asked to explain why this SIG is necessary and how gender is connected to language learning and teaching. It means a lot to me to represent a group who are working to increase awareness within JALT of how gender affects us and our students.
JALT SIG officers are passionate about teaching and research, and most of us are clearly committed to living in Japan. Ultimately, that brings us together. We may not always agree on every issue, but like any big family we work it out. This is home, and I care about what we are doing. In short, it’s a job, and a volunteer one at that, but adding this extra layer of commitment makes it more of a calling.
Holding a Door Open for Others
Joseph Falout, Nihon University
CUE SIG OnCUE Journal section editor (for 17 years and continuing)
Faced by the need to get published, learn more, and feel like I belong, I joined JALT. One of the first conferences I ever attended was the College and University Educators (CUE) conference on developing autonomy, held at Miho Kenshukan of Tokai University, a resort-like retreat on the coast in Shizuoka. There, I was greeted openly by many colleagues, a good number of which I am still professionally in touch with and personally close to. One new friend advised me that to break into publishing, I could review a book, presentation, or conference. I then did this several times, writing reviews for various JALT publications, including a review in the proceedings of that very CUE conference. The editors, who were also among my new friends, gave me critical yet caring advice for how to revise it. From their feedback, my review became publishable and I grew as a writer.
Meanwhile, several other CUE conference friends were volunteering at my local JALT chapter and at the national level of the organization, so I got involved. I tried volunteering in different capacities while looking for a position within JALT that would provide me greater personal meaning and professional development. As I watched my skills of researching, presenting, and writing improve, I realized it all started thanks to my friends, who had stopped to hold doors open for me to professionally enter the field of applied linguistics. Likewise, I wanted to give back as I moved forward. Thus, I became a section editor for CUE’s journal, a position in which I am holding a door open for others to publish, learn, and feel like they belong.