This month’s pre-conference issue wraps up nearly a year of SIG member testimonials. As SIG Focus editors, we hope that this series has helped readers better understand the role of SIGs in JALT and how they can positively impact the lives of their members. To become more involved in SIGs, a great place to start is at the JALT International Conference this month. Check the conference schedule and the pre-conference section of this month’s TLT for more details.
Finding Your Place, and Your People
Adrianne Verla Uchida
Teacher Development SIG Member at Large
My first impression of JALT was not what I would call a positive experience. I was a graduate school student with high expectations of going to a JALT conference and meeting professionals with similar interests and expanding my TESOL network. What I experienced was something quite different. The conference was so large and there was so much going on that at the end of the day, I left feeling overwhelmed and disappointed that the conference was not what I expected. However, I decided to give JALT another chance and attended a PanSIG conference, in which I began to find my place. The smaller atmosphere allowed me to talk with many people, and I could navigate the smaller site in a much more relaxed atmosphere. After that conference, I joined three SIGs: GILE, LD, and TD.
Since then, I was hooked. I was a LD SIG JALT Conference grant recipient, and in return I published a couple of articles in their newsletter, I participated in a GILE forum at JALT, and I was appointed publicity chair for the TD SIG. In that role, I learned how to design monthly newsletters and manage a mailing list. However, it helped me realize that my passions were more geared toward event planning, so I became the co-programs chair for a couple of years. I am currently taking a year or so off and representing the SIG as a member at large. Additionally, I am the site chair for PanSIG 2021. Thanks to my involvement with the SIGs, I found my place at JALT and hope that someday in return, I can help others new to JALT find their place and their people, too.
The Bilingual SIG: It’s So Much More Than Language
Diane C. Obara
Bilingualism SIG Program Chair
In 2015, I took over the position as one of the editors for the Bilingualism SIG’s newsletter, and then in 2020 as its Program Chair. Yet, even though my appointment as an officer is somewhat recent, my relationship with JALT started about fifteen years ago when I attended the 2005 national convention in Wakayama on a trip to visit friends after completing graduate school in the U.S. It was not until Tsukuba in 2014, however, that my SIG-life began, when a representative from the BSIG booth heard me talking about my approach to raising my children bilingually and suggested I write an article for their newsletter. Since then, my activities with the SIG have taken off. Writing that first article led to an editor position, and now my duties as program chair also include organizing our biannual forums.
Holding an officer position for the SIG has taken me to a deeper level of understanding of members in our community that goes beyond conversations in the part-time teachers’ room. Even though we often get articles from members wanting to write, there have also been many times that I have had to reach out to find contributors. This challenge has forced me to branch outside of my close inner circles and approach acquaintances, asking them to reflect on their educational experiences and learning processes, in addition to asking personal questions about topics as intimate as child-raising and hardship.
Yes, by being an officer, I have maybe improved my writing a bit. And yes, I have definitely increased my knowledge of bilingual education, language acquisition, the mind, and the brain. And most definitely, my own children have benefitted from my engagement. However, I think most importantly, being an officer has helped me to become more understanding and empathetic of other people. It has helped me to connect. And through these conversations, it has forced me to really listen.
Benefits of Being a Member of the LD-SIG
Member of the LD-SIG Tokyo Get-together Organizing Team
Since joining the Learner Development SIG in 2012, I can say that being a member of this group has had a profound impact on my development as both a teacher and researcher. My first interaction with the SIG was at their forum at the 2012 JALT International Conference. The open and energetic atmosphere of the event, with simultaneous presentation sessions followed by group reflection discussions, gave plenty of opportunities to talk and make valuable connections with the other SIG members. While attending this event, I was encouraged to apply for one of the LD SIG grants to attend a conference focused on Self-access Learning at Kanda University of International Studies. At the time, I was working at a private language school, so it was a great financial burden for me to travel to conferences. However, with this grant I had the opportunity to participate in and write a publication about the conference, which was of great benefit to me when trying to find a job after completing my master’s degree. Since then, I have been a dedicated member of the SIG, attending and helping to organize the regular get-together meetings in the Tokyo area, participating in their forum events at various JALT Conferences, and also participating in their annual Creating Community Learning Together conference. All of these events organized by the SIG have allowed me to make long lasting connections with other professionals; provided me with many opportunities to discuss, present, and publish my research; and also to develop as a teacher who can help my students become better learners.