The Junior/Senior High SIG: Year17 (?)

Roger Pattimore, Treasurer

The Junior/Senior High SIG is in its 15th or 17th year, but it depends how you count! The “Team Teaching SIG,” our apparent ancestor, formed in 1993, and volumes of its newsletter, Team Teaching Bulletin, are numbered as the first volumes of our current newsletter. In 1995 the title of the SIG changed to “Jr./Sr. High N-SIG”, thus broadening the mandate, and the newsletter became the Jr./Sr. High Bulletin. The School House dates from 1998. Thus, if not 17, the SIG has remained basically the same organization since 1995 and we may consider the years 1993 and 1994 as a longish period of gestation! In principle, the SIG represents secondary school English teachers, a huge group numbering some 80,000 individuals nationally. This estimate includes both public and private junior and senior high Japanese teachers of English (JTEs), various private Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs), members of the JET program (mostly ALTs), as well as many stand-alone foreign teachers in the private sector. Our group, tiny though it is, consists of members from all of these, plus members who, although not secondary teachers themselves, are involved in teacher education. Despite the huge potential pool of members, secondary teachers have been vastly underrepresented within JALT, which in turn has affected SIG membership. According to a 1993 SIG report, we had about 100 members. We have rarely been more than that and sometimes much less. At the time of writing (September) we have 82 members, although several people appear to have forgotten to renew their memberships during the summer! We have succeeded in focusing a wide variety of teacher types on some main ideas. Looking at the goals listed in our first newsletter in 1993, one goal stands out: “To provide a focus in JALT for increased research and discussion of issues directly related to the improvement and development of foreign language education in Japanese secondary schools.” That goal has clearly endured and has been religiously pursued by successive executives to the benefit of our members and the rest of the English teaching community. What do we do? Firstly, the newsletter has come out regularly three times a year for 17 years. We publish a wide range of articles on all facets of secondary education from very theoretical research-oriented articles to practical classroom ideas. Secondly, SIG members are active presenters. Within the preceding 10 months, every member of the SIG executive has presented either at the 2009 JALT National Conference or at local venues around the country such as chapter-sponsored events. While the SIG has maintained a high degree of continuity since inception, several new trends have developed in the last seven to eight years. First, the annual JALT conference SIG Forum has become a regular event. More overtly than in the past, we aim to push the limits and challenge assumptions. Within our usual 90-minute time slot, we try to keep presentations short and discussions long. Topics have been wide ranging and challenging: we have critiqued the Ministry of Education; we have listened to students discuss their secondary school experiences; we have challenged the idea of the JET program; and most recently, contrary to the popular trend, we have been talking about what IS working. During last year’s groundbreaking forum (2009), a panel of Japanese teachers, including non-JALT members, presented ideas on their own teaching as well as problems confronting all secondary teachers. A lively 45-minute discussion followed. At least 50% of the audience was also Japanese and we did the whole thing in English! This year, in line with the conference theme of “thinking outside the box,” we will challenge the current pessimism about team teaching. A panel of ALTs and JTEs will present and discuss how they are making team teaching work. Blessed with conscientious editors, The School House always makes excellent reading. On the production side, it is always a sought-after place for new and experienced writers alike. Our ISSN number makes publication with us countable in terms of job placement. We have also published submissions in Japanese to try to broaden the dialogue. Finally, we also welcome submissions from non-JALT and/or non-SIG members. I am very optimistic about the future of our SIG. In 2011, we are expecting to have a diverse executive from all walks of teaching at the secondary level, and all full of enthusiasm and new ideas. We hope to see many of you at various events planned for 2011. JALT Junior Senior High SIG Contacts: Coordinator: Chris Tebbe ( Program Chair: Sonoko Ogawa ( Newsletter Editor: Jake Arnold( Website:

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