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Old and new officers in JALT: Keeping the circle

Fred Carruth, Chapter Representative Liaison


Without an array of countervailing forces, knowledge attenuates. This applies to JALT, where rotation is rapid and all the labor volunteered is the remainder of energy and willpower after the demands of work and the commitments of personal lives. In addition to this, JALT’s organizational requirements continue to grow, as it is the nature of any large organization to increase in complexity over time. In addition to that, we are still in the midst of the paper-to-digits revolution. We are driven to change, but should always keep one eye to continuity.

JALTers are people with knowledge and ideas. Our human resources are enormous. Some members have 10, 20 and even more years experience as teachers, presenters, authors…  you name it. For me, associating with so many wonderful people is one of the chief joys of JALT membership. Another main reason many of us are in JALT is to stretch our personal and professional capabilities. We challenge ourselves with new responsibilities, and do things that perhaps we cannot do in our ordinary professional lives. This gives us liberating, even exhilarating opportunities. Taking all this into account, it is clear to me that one of our main duties is to pass on what we know to others who need it. When you are writing an email, unless you are sure your recipient knows it, spell that name out, give the person’s title, cite the link, unpack that acronym.

Within JALT, we need to know who is doing what job. Chapter Presidents have an irreplaceable role in the circle, because they both lead their chapters at the local level and represent their chapters at the thrice-annual Executive Board Meetings (EBMs). The Executive Board consists of the seven members of the Board of Directors (BOD), auditor, 35 Chapter Presidents, and 18 Coordinators of SIGs (Special Interest Groups). To the extent that there is such a thing as “National JALT,” this diverse group is it, because JALT is essentially managed through the EBMs. (It is a common misconception that the JALT Central Office, or JCO, is the true center of JALT. While we could scarcely continue without it, the JCO should be conceived of as our “front office,” where the paper and digits are shuffled. Its job is to provide administrative support for us, the volunteers, who actually run JALT.) To help keep the circle complete, Chapter Presidents should:

  • Make sure the list of chapter officers at <> is current, and resubmitted after each year’s conference;
  • Join (and be active on!) the EBM-Net, the Executive Board Members discussion list, (all chapter and SIG officers are eligible);
  • Sign up for the Chap-Prez email list by sending an email to the Chapter Representative Liaison (or CRL, but you can call me the Chapter Dude). This list is for Chapter Presidents what the EBM-Net is for the Executive Board. (There are similar lists for SIG Coordinators, as well as for Treasurers and Membership Chairs.)

Each officer needs to know how things work. For primary sources, from the JALT homepage, go to “Log in (Resources),” under “Groups” on the dropdown menu. (To access Officers’ Resources, you must first follow the prompts to register as an officer.) Here you will find:

  • The JALT Directory, a rich source of data including the JALT Constitution and Bylaws, and our version of Who’s Who but, due to publishing constraints and the time it takes to gather all the information, the JALT Directory is always one year behind. Despite this, that so much of its information remains current year to year is an encouraging indication of continuity.
  • JALT Standing Rules, which further define our operating procedures.
  • JENLs: the JALT Executive NewsLetter sets the agenda for the EBM and is the definitive record of key meetings and decisions. The February 2009 JENL was 51 pages.
  • Officers’ wikis. The wikis replaced the paper-based officers’ handbooks. One of the main goals for my first year as CRL is to improve the Chapter Presidents’ wiki.

Lastly, I cannot overemphasize the importance of passing on to your replacement the information and documents needed to carry on. If you have done all the stuff I have written about, and if you have read all the reading, you may not even know how much you know! Now you can continue the great JALT tradition of doing what we do best: helping each otherto achieve common goals.

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