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Chapter Operations Overview

If Gunma JALT’s 2015 year could be summed up in one word, it would be “innovative”. iPads and corpora, flipped classrooms and blended learning - Gunma JALT’s annual event schedule was chock-full of cutting-edge classroom ideas. The pinnacle of this progressive plentitude was no doubt our annual Kusatsu Workshop where m-learning guru Mark Pegrum ushered us into a future of HUD contact lenses and nano-bots in our bloodstream. We truly live in heady times.

Looking to the future, Gunma JALT will need this innovative spirit. The hard financial realities of the past decades have finally caught up to us, and we will soon need a strategy that cuts costs without sacrificing the services that our members value. There is no doubt, however, that the members and volunteers that make Gunma JALT great will rise to the challenge.

President: John Larson

The President coordinated and communicated with other officers to make sure Gunma JALT was running smoothly. He represented Gunma JALT at the national meetings. He organized our local AGM and put together our Chapter Report. This year the job of President has been easy due to the positive contributions made by all Gunma JALT officers.

Special thanks to members Morijiro Shibayama and Mikio Iguchi who, while not part of this report, were instrumental in Gunma JALT's Annual Workshop in Kusatsu.

Membership: Barry Keith

The Membership Chair took attendance at the Chapter's reception desk during monthly meetings. His responsibilities also included processing new and renewing members to (Gunma) JALT. 

On the 1st day of each month, the most recent membership list becomes available on the officer resources page. The Membership Chair downloads the list and sends the relevant data to the Publicity Chair. The Publicity Chair then updates the chapter mailing list accordingly and sends out notices and reminders of upcoming events based on the revised mailing list.

Once the most recent membership list has been downloaded, the Membership Chair sends out renewal notices to members whose memberships have become overdue, and welcome messages to members who have recently (re)joined.

Gunma Chapter Membership Increase
Gunma JALT membership has experienced a slight increase. In January 2015 our chapter had 49 Members and currently (October 2015) we have 53 Members. Attendance at monthly meetings has been quite good, with most meetings attracting between 15 and 20 participants. However, the Kusatsu Seminar was not well attended this year and we did not meet the minimum required number to break even on the event.

New Membership Fees
In 2015, JALT raised its membership fees to pay for rising costs. This was the first increase in more than 17 years. Here are the new rates:
Regular Member - ¥13,000
5-Year Membership - ¥52,000
Joint Membership - ¥10,500 each
Group Membership - ¥8,500 each (5 or more members)
Student Membership - ¥7,000
Senior Membership - ¥7,000
Local Membership     - ¥4,000

New Registration Procedures
JALT is changing our membership registration system. New and renewing national members are urged to register through JALT’s online page. In this way, clerical errors can be avoided in most cases and the Treasurer and Membership Chairs’ duties will be greatly simplified. Here are the current ways to join JALT:
- Through on-line registration on the JALT website
- By postal remittance (yubin-furikae) forms in TLT
- In cash at meetings (local members must use this option)

Proposed: Tracking Meeting Attendance and Membership
One possible future project is keeping a monthly record of meeting attendance and membership so we can have a better visual understanding of how our membership fluctuates, especially after the rise in membership fees. 

Proposed: Interviewing Local Membership
This national project was begun by JALT Central Membership Chair Fred Carruth. The purpose of the project is to better understand why people join JALT and how we can better serve them. It involves a short questionnaire (preferably done in a tête-à-tête interview). JALT Central will compile all the membership chair reports into a comprehensive profile of our membership.

Program: Michele Steele and Joël Laurier

Programs Chairs find speakers and organized Gunma JALT's monthly meetings. This year, the Program Chairs tried to offer diversity in the presentations, while remaining fiscally responsible. Gunma’s distance from the bigger cities continues to be a source of concern as presenters coming in from afar do put a bigger strain on the chapter’s budget. Despite this, with the positive collaboration of other Gunma JALT officers, this year's Program Chairs have been able to bring in quality speakers. The range of presentations varied from classroom practice ideas and how to set up an English conversation space, to more theoretical research-based presentations. A concern of note is that no matter what the presentation topic or the presenter, attendance does not vary much.

This year Gunma JALT and the newly renamed Saitama JALT rejoined forces to host a My Share event in each prefecture in back to back months. Both events were well attended and it allowed us to form more solid ties with Saitama JALT.  We were invited to join the Nakasendo Conference as a sponsor organization but we did not join the conference as a sponsor this year. With more advance warning in 2016, maybe we could play a bigger part in the conference.

This year's new system of speaker reimbursement really seemed to simplify things. It was unnecessary to remind speakers to get a receipt for their travel, and this no doubt made things easier for the treasurer, who didn't have to deal with exact travel amounts, and report them to JCO or the auditor.  We now offer 
10,000 yen for Gunma-based speakers
20,000 yen for Kanto-based speakers and
30,000 yen for all others. 
Speakers can decide which means of transportation they wish to use, the remainder of which is their honorarium.

Proposed: Program Survey
A survey will be passed out at the beginning of the 2015-2016 term to more accurately assess the interests of the Gunma JALT community. 

Proposed: Best of JALT Voting System
The merits of having a more balanced voting system for the Best of JALT award has been discussed. A system of voting should be in place by December. 

Proposed: Kusatsu 2016 Outline by December
There are bigger program challenges on the horizon. In addition to the regular monthly meetings, the Program Chairs will be charged with the big task of finding featured speaker(s) for the Kusatsu workshop. Discussions about next year’s Kusatsu Workshop have already started. By December we should have a firm plan of where we will have the conference and who the plenary speakers will be.

Proposed: Gender Equality in Presenters
While we should always strive to invite the best speakers possible, Gunma JALT should also aim for achieving a balance in presenters representing educators both male and female.

Publicity: Raymond Hoogenboom and Kayvon Havaei-Ahary

The Publicity Chair maintained Gunma JALT's e-mail contacts list and notified all of our contacts — including the entire JALT Gunma Chapter membership, JALT membership from other prefectures, and contacts who are not members of JALT — about upcoming monthly meetings, the Kusatsu Workshop, and other miscellaneous announcements from our chapter and from JALT National.  He also posted our meetings onto our Facebook page after the departure of Kayvon Havaei-Ahary, whose job situation necessitated a move to another prefecture.

As of October 1 2015, there are 53 members of our chapter receiving e-mail notices. There are also have 123 contacts, either from other JALT groups or are not JALT members, receiving meeting announcements and some other notices.

The usual structure of meeting announcement is as follows:
1. Title of event, time and date, abstract, bio, and location (plus link to location).
2. Fees for regular meetings (JALT members-FREE; first-time visitors-FREE, students-FREE, and repeat visitors-1,000). Sometimes special events have been open to all at no cost.
3. Email Contacts for chapter president, the program chair for event, the treasurer, and publicity co-chairs.
4. A bilingual description of JALT.

Also, Gunma JALT now has small bilingual promotional fliers to bring to special events (such as ALT conferences) and to our meetings.

Proposed: It is hoped that Gunma JALT can begin sending out notices from a more advanced email marketing service such as MailChimp.

At the AGM it was also proposed that Gunma JALT start sending out meeting notices in Japanese as well as English.

Treasurer: Sylvain Bergeron

The Treasurer’s role is a very important one. This type of work is best suited for individuals who have an eye for detail, enjoy working with numbers, who are good at respecting deadlines, and maintaining good communication with all parties involved.

The Gunma JALT Treasurer’s responsibilities include the following tasks:
• Attending monthly meetings regularly
• Preparing honorarium for invited speakers
• Collecting receipts at the monthly meeting from other officers
 Compiling and submitting a monthly revenue and expense report to JCO
 Maintaining regular contact with the JALT Central Office’s (JCO) accounting section and pair branch treasurer
 Balancing the deposits and withdrawals from the Gunma JALT bank account
 Preparing a sufficient amount of funds prior to each event
 Attending the annual Gunma JALT Summer Workshop
 Receiving and managing participation and lodging fees from Kusatsu participants
• Preparing all necessary receipts prior to the Kutsatsu event  
• Compiling and tabulating a yearly Chapter Fiscal Year Budget Report by May

Facilities: Hideto D. Harashima and Lori Ann Desrosiers

Gunma JALT monthly meetings were held mostly at Kyoai Gakuen College with MIT and Chuo Kominkan being used on a few occasions. Kyoai is the best site, as it is located in the center of Gunma, free of charge, and with easy access from the station. 

Some speakers requested a computer room, and on some occasions because of the lack of communication beforehand, the room was left in disorder, and it caused trouble to the lessons that followed. Speakers who use computer facilities should maintain the previous conditions after the presentation, and if he/she made any changes to the settings, he/she should let the person in charge of the room know about it without delay. 

Kusatsu Summer Workshop was held at the same place (Skyland Hotel) as the year before. Instead of relying on the equipment provided by the hotel, we prepared our own projectors and a screen, and it went much smoother than the last year. Providing two projections using two screens during the presentations was an interesting challenge and it paid off. It seemed most participants were satisfied with the facility and food.

Proposed: Kusatsu Venue Discussion
Facility arrangement for monthly meetings next year will probably be the same as this year. However, it is known that JACET is no longer planning to come to Kusatsu for their summer seminar, which gives us no good reason to keep using Skyland Hotel. We may go back to the national Kusatsu Seminar House. Discussion will be needed on this issue.

Social: Yoko Miyazaki and Renée Sawazaki

For each monthly meeting, Social Chairs prepared coffee, tea, and snacks for the break time because we believe that these coffee breaks helped enhance communication among attendees.  At least one Social Chair attended each monthly meeting, set up the snack table, cleaned up the leftovers and emptied the garbage. One Social Chair has the duty of keeping hot water pots at home so that they can be taken to the venue when Gunma JALT has meetings at places other than Kyoai Gakuen College.

Social Chairs organized a dinner party after the first meeting in April to celebrate the beginning of the academic year, and a more formal dinner party at the beginning of December to celebrate the end of the calendar year. This year, Gunma JALT held the April party at Curry Mahal, which is only a 5-minute drive from Kyoai Gakuen College. The Year-End Party was held at Intimano, a lovely restaurant in downtown Maebashi with exquisite food, drinks and service.

Proposed: Eat More Curry Together
As Curry Mahal offers plentiful food and drinks at a reasonable price and is a family-friendly restaurant, it is hoped we can continue this tradition and encourage families of members to join up to foster a true “Gunma JALT family” feeling.

Newsletter: Harry Meyer and Kayvon Havaei-Ahary

Newsletter Editors received and reviewed papers submitted to Speakeasy, contacted authors and worked with them to edit their submissions, and posted them in the template.

Last year the staff of Speakeasy engaged in a deep debate on what direction the publication should take and more fundamentally on the topic of “What is the Speakeasy?” The consensus was that Speakeasy should be a place where language teachers could discuss their profession in an atmosphere where they were free to write in a relaxed fashion; that is to “speak easy” about their profession. This has resulted in a complex balancing, where the editors had to grapple with how strict to make submission standards. Should papers be rejected that would otherwise contribute to the knowledge and understanding of English teaching in Japan because they were not written to a high academic standard? Most of our contributors this year come from outside of academia and so have varying writing skills.

Proposed: Shift Speakeasy to a Magazine Format (or not)
For next year Speakeasy should be changed from a journal to a magazine. This way we can relax writing standards and allow more voices to be heard. Conversely, Speakeasy could maintain high admission standards and reject submissions early on without any hesitancy.

Proposed: Encourage Kusatsu Presenters to Publish
I recommend giving Kusatsu presenters the option of publishing their presentations in the Speakeasy as they have done in the past.

At the AGM it was proposed that the Newsletter Editor request proofreader volunteers from among the other officers. Officers present were positive about this idea and expressed willingness to cooperate.

Recording: John Larson

The Recording Secretary attended and summarized Gunma JALT meetings. These summaries are sent to JALT National for publication in TLT and are also uploaded to our website. Starting in July, summaries of previous meetings are no longer in the print version of TLT. Instead there is a webform on into which they are entered.

Website: John Larson

The Website Editor maintained Gunma JALT’s website. After each meeting was announced, a new webpage for that meeting was created with all the necessary information. The same information was used to make an event in the JALT Event Calendar. After each meeting finished, the webpage was updated with the meeting summary. All told, there were about 20 updates to the webpage this year.

Proposed: Abandon Paid Webhosting Plan
As many may remember, Gunma JALT’s website encountered some trouble at the beginning of August last year (2014). This prompted a search for a new webhosting service. The results of that search were as expected: there are many free website services, but they all have the same problem - their administration is done automatically by computers, and sometimes computers make mistakes. It is likely one of these automated mistakes led to our site being taken down last August. Paid website services give us safety and control over our website, but they cost money - some as much as 1000 a month. Also as expected, changing from Google Sites to another webhost would require a great deal of work. Though a change to a paid webhost was considered last year, in light of JALT’s current financial situation such a change is no longer prudent.


The election this year saw lively and friendly debate about a range of important topics. Our officers next year were decided as follows:
President: Raymond Hoogenboom
Membership: Barry Keith, Kenji Kawaii
Program: Michele Steele, Joël Laurier
Publicity: Kayvon Havaei-Ahary, Kenji Kawaii, Yukari Yano, Stephen Howes
Treasurer: Sylvain Bergeron
Facilities: Hideto Harashima, Lori Ann Desrosiers
Social: Yoko Miyazaki, Renee Sawazaki, Junko Hoshino, Terry Bircham
Newsletter: Kayvon Havaei-Ahary
Recording: John Larson, Raymond Hoogenboom
Website: John Larson, Raymond Hoogenboom