The theme of JALT’s 38th annual conference is “making a difference” and we hope that the conference will make a big difference in your professional life, whether you attend as a presenter, an exhibitor, an event organizer, an invited speaker, an audience member, or a guest from overseas.
We believe that teachers are people who make a difference in other people’s lives, and we invite you to join us in Hamamatsu next October to honor and celebrate those people whose lives have intersected with yours.
To get things going, as conference co-chairs we would like to share two brief memories of people who ‘made a difference’ in our respective lives. We hope that reading our stories will encourage you to share your own. You’ll notice that making a difference works both ways: sometimes we are the recipients of that change, and sometimes we are lucky enough to initiate and support it in others.
Whatever difference you feel like honoring is welcome; we want everyone to feel that they are part of the network of connections that makes JALT the uniquely rich organization that it has become over the past 4 decades.
Steven Herder remembers . . . “Joe J. Vacheresse (J.J.) made a lasting difference in my life. He was my high school principal in the late 1970s in Nova Scotia, Canada. I now realize how clearly and consistently he showed all his students the things that he believed in: the importance of cleanliness, the power of believing in people and the honor of being a school principal in so many simple ways. Firstly, our school was spotless – he believed that a clean school was important and pride in our school was worthwhile. We all bought into that idea under his leadership. Next, as our small school’s chorus conductor, J.J. taught me to believe in myself and showed me that even a scrawny little kid like me could boom like Pavarotti if I put in the effort and believed in myself. Finally, he was always accessible to students and he treated everyone individually and equally. It’s been 32 years since I graduated from Westville High School, but I still think of him regularly and I’m still in awe of the difference he made in my life.”
Deryn Verity recalls . . . “a student I had in an ESL drama class I taught many years ago. He was a very self-conscious speaker of English, and was not throwing himself with anything approaching abandon into the creative exercises we did every week. Our final performance, an evening of semi-structured improvisational games, drew near.
While the other members of the class continued to explore wild and crazy scenarios that developed spontaneously from their interactions, this guy stuck closely to familiar routines that had already worked for him. The day before the show I asked him if he would risk giving up his note cards and his written cues and engage in some real improv.
He declined, politely but firmly; he really didn’t think he was that good in English, and the last thing he wanted to do was to humiliate himself onstage... I thought, for a very short minute, about forcing the issue with him, but finally just said, ‘Well, I know you’re going to be great, whatever happens.’ The next night, he exploded with original ideas, risked falling flat in every scene, but in the end blew us all away with his courage and his fluent performance. I take very little credit for what happened onstage that night, except that I know the class had made a real difference to him. It helped him get close enough to the edge of linguistic freedom that he felt strong enough to jump. And he flew.”
We know you have your own memories and mentors to honor, and we hope you will share and celebrate them at Hamamatsu. We’re working hard on a number of ideas to allow conference goers ways to display, discuss and demonstrate how they and their students are making a difference. The sky’s the limit. The conference is our collective destination, but we hope that you’ll share some of your journey along the way.
As usual, this is announcing the Call for Presentations; please click here for the JALT2012 Call for Presentations and more detailed information. Unusually, we’re also putting out a call to everyone in JALT to spend the next 10 months before the conference continuing to make a difference—in your classes, in your community, in the lives of people you see all the time.
A final note: JALT2012 “Making a Difference” will be held in mid-October, nearly a month earlier than usual. Many deadlines will be moved up to accommodate this change. Keeping the new dates in mind and complying with our requests for earlier submission of proposals, conference registration, and equipment reservations will surely make a difference to the wonderful staff at JCO and the hard-working volunteer conference team!
Looking forward to seeing you in Hamamatsu in October,
Steven Herder and Deryn Verity
Conference Cochairs, JALT2012