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The Association of Canadian Teachers in Japan

Writer(s): 
Robert McLaughlin, Association of Canadian Teachers in Japan, Tokoha Gakuen Daigaku, Shizuoka

 

Finding one’s own countrymen in Japan is often a matter of chance, especially for those of us who are from nations with smaller populations. For Canadians, simply finding oneself beside a fellow Vancouverite, Torontonian, or Prince Edward Islander at a conference or seminar often provides a natural route to conversation. Such encounters are generally of a fleeting nature however, with hectic personal schedules and geographic distance often preventing relationships from developing further and cementing. Arriving in Japan in 1995, I personally found that opportunities to meet Canadians were generally limited to introductions made through friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, and the various corners of Japan seemed remote. However, as seen by the recent and rapid growth of Internet-based networking sites such as Facebook, our physical separation from one another in the Japanese archipelago matters much less than it once did. With new mediums of communication, organizations may more easily and effectively foster and strengthen professional relationships. For likeminded individuals or those with a common purpose, it has never been easier to meet one another—a welcome development for expatriates in Japan.

Established in 1992, when “electronic mail” was very much in its infancy, and even news and articles related to “the home country” often came from a newspaper bought at the local train station, the Association of Canadian Teachers in Japan (ACTJ) has provided a means for Canadian educators in the country to meet, share ideas and information, and grow valuable networking opportunities. Through representation at several language-teaching events, as well as a website <www.actj.org>, a quarterly publication, and formalized links to other organizations, ACTJ offers its members a focal point for professional growth, and to establish and maintain personal ties. Now approaching its 20th year as an organization, ACTJ is seeking to implement changes to meet the needs of the many Canadians in Japan and serve those who are interested in Canadian matters in education and EFL in general.

ACTJ’s executive committee provides members with numerous chances to meet, with representation at annual events such as the national JALT Conference, the Canada Project Symposium at the International University of Kagoshima, the Association’s own one-day conference at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, and other events throughout the year. The annual ACTJ one-day conference, generally held on a national holiday in late September, gives Canadians, and others interested in attending or presenting, a chance to not only see familiar faces and meet new members, but to access and familiarize themselves with the Canadian Embassy’s excellent public facilities, such as the well-appointed library and art gallery. Additionally, through the conference, attendees have an opportunity to meet officers and staff of the embassy in person. As a former ACTJ executive committee member and four-time chair of the Tokyo conference, it was always reassuring that the embassy staff were so courteous and helpful, and I found that the institutional image of an embassy gave way to a more community-based spirit of cooperation. Moreover, the Canadian Embassy supports ACTJ immensely by providing its presenters, keynote speakers, and attendees with access to first-class technology and facilities, such as the newly built Oscar Peterson theatre—named after the world-renowned Canadian jazz pianist.

Past Presidents of ACTJ have included former JALT President David McMurray, Tokyo-based writer and educator Gregory Strong, Geoff Morrison, and founding President Lynn Howe, who sadly has left us and is fondly remembered by the many who knew her. Now under the leadership of Michael Stout, the association continues to organize social events, maintains an email directory of members and associates, supplies information about cultural events and jobs in Japan, and publishes Canadian Content—a quarterly journal open to submission of both academic and more general-interest articles. Those who present at the annual conference and/or submit their essays and articles to Canadian Content may also have their articles made available online for easy reference. Please contact the journal’s editor, Andrew Reimann, through the ACTJ website.

As an international associate of the Teachers of English as a Second Language in Canada, ACTJ also offers reduced-rate subscriptions to the biannual publication, the TESL Canada Journal.

With an eye to the future, it is hoped that ACTJ will expand its membership beyond the roughly 100 current members, largely comprised of Japan-based university and college EFL educators, as well as those interested in Canadian matters and language education in general, to a larger, broader membership base, including JET ALTs and other members of the expat community.

Interested readers are encouraged to access the website and meet one of ACTJ’s representatives in person at one of the many EFL events held around the country, or at the Canadian Embassy.

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