I was having lunch with some colleagues at work recently. To make conversation, I asked everyone if they were going to the up and coming JALT conference. It was being held in our city, so I assumed they’d all be going. Much to my surprise, no one said they’d go! As a long time volunteer, I was really shocked at their dismissive attitude. It was like JALT was not for them, and they could see nothing useful about going. Given all that JALT participation has done for me over the years, it got me thinking—How can I do a better job of reaching folks like this? Well, maybe these guys are a lost cause, but in general, what are some ways that we can better promote JALT to attract non-members?
Wondering in Wakayama
Thanks a lot for your message! Sorry to hear about your non-success in promoting JALT with your colleagues. The dismissive attitude you encountered is unfortunate, and while you can’t win them all, there are a lot of things you can do to help promote our organization. As you well know from your own experience, JALT is a very large and diverse group of educators. While it may appear to some as a publishing vehicle for university professors with big travel budgets, that view is extremely narrow and does not do us justice. As you know, JALT is made up of teachers from all walks of life, from ALTs fresh off the boat to 40+ year veterans with PhDs and reams of publications.
The great thing about JALT is that there is something for everyone, so our first bit of advice when talking to people about it is to listen. Instead of coming across overzealously, it’s much more effective to engage your co-workers in a receptive manner. Ask questions and try to get folks talking about themselves and their work situation. Chances are they have hopes and dreams for a better career, so once you get them talking, it’s much easier to channel them to the area of JALT that is best for them. For example, is your colleague interested in getting a Master’s degree? Are they teaching children and just need some new ideas, or are they looking for better ways to run their private language school? Perhaps they are being forced to publish an article to get or keep a job but have no clue on how to go about doing that. Again, there is not only information to be had at a JALT conference, but also something more valuable—a community of like-minded teachers! The best way to get ahead is to dive more deeply into one’s profession, work in the community, and JALT is the vehicle to help make that happen. If it’s a new job, pursuing a particular research interest, or just looking for a new textbook, JALT is the place to be.
If people say they can’t make it to the big international conference, they may be happy to know that JALT is way more than just a single yearly event. This would be a good time to point out the many chapters and SIGs that people could get hooked up with. There is a complete list over at the jalt.org website: jalt.org/main/groups. Joining first as a local member can serve as a good segue to the bigger yearly conference. A lot of folks consider themselves teachers rather than researchers, so attending a local meeting can help present JALT with more of a classroom-oriented image. If there is no local chapter, then people can be encouraged to join a SIG, which are not geographically situated. Either way, once people join and start making connections, that’s where things can take off.
Beyond listening and suggesting, there are bunch of other things you can do to promote the organization. Here is a quick bullet point list to get your imagination moving:
- Make copies of the conference flyers and put them in your colleagues’ mailboxes at work. These can be downloaded from <http://jalt.org/conference>.
- Lend out your copies of The Language Teacher or JALT Journal. These will provide lots of information and give a good general overview of our organization.
- You can also point folks to the JALT Publications website (jalt-publications.org). Here you can find the online Post-Conference Publication as well as a vast archive of literature heading back over 40 years. This is an especially amazing resource for colleagues who need to find information and references for current publication projects.
- Post conference, you could organize an event at your local chapter where people who attended the conference could discuss some of the presentations they saw. This would make for some interesting and productive conversations.
Those are just a few ideas that could work. The main thing is to not get down when you encounter negative or narrow attitudes about JALT. Just stay patient and listen as best you can. Get people talking and then gently bring up the most pertinent JALT resources. JALT is a vast and thriving community that has obvious value for one’s career, but many teachers are not quite ready to dive in. When they are, hopefully you’ll be there at the right time with just the right thing to say! Good luck!