Published: April 16, 2021
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Updates from the American Association of Teachers of Japanese

2020 - The Year of Zoom

For the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ) – whose administrative office is part of the Center for Asian Studies – 2020 was a milestone year in many ways. 

AATJ’s annual spring conference, scheduled for March, was quickly cancelled due to the pandemic and replaced by an online portal where research presentations were posted. The organization also immediately moved to offer support to its 1200 members – many of whom were blindsided by the need to move to online instruction overnight. Some had experience with online or virtual classes, but many did not. The community came together in amazing fashion to offer mentoring, share resources, and support each other. A newly-formed Facebook group – Covid-19 と日本語教育(COVID-19 and Japanese Language Education) – gained several hundred members within hours. One of AATJ’s affiliate chapters took the Zoom plunge on March 20 with a webinar called “Teaching Japanese Online 101” – attended by more than 500 teachers. 

On March 28, AATJ offered the first of what became a 12-part series of professional development webinars focusing on skills that teachers at all levels of instruction needed for online and hybrid instruction. Over seven months, the professional community moved from panic to proficiency in all kinds of virtual platforms. Each webinar was attended by several hundred participants, often maxing out at the 300-viewer capacity of Zoom accounts at that time. Topics ranged from online assessment to young learners’ social-emotional challenges in the classroom, and from teaching writing online to promoting social justice and anti-racism in Japanese language education.

Having survived and thrived in the midst of the challenges that 2020 presented, AATJ’s leadership and members are moving into the Year of the Ox (in the Asian zodiac calendar) with a focus on diversity, representation, and inclusion in the profession. Another online conference is being planned for March, and a new series of webinars is beginning in January. 

Online events are limited in some ways, but they have also brought new opportunities for networking and collaboration in different ways, and for participation by a wider group of people for whom in-person events are not accessible. We hope that 2021 will bring early opportunities to gather in person and see one another again, but in the meantime a new world of online collaboration has widened our horizons and created new possibilities.

2020 – Focus on Diversity

In 2020, AATJ took a hard look at issues of diversity and inclusion, not only across the nation and in the communities around us, but in our classrooms and in the Japanese language education profession. We published a special issue of our journal, Japanese Language and Literature, on the topic of representation and diversity, with contributions from scholars, administrators, and teachers at all levels of instruction. [Electronic and paper copies are available on request from AATJ – write]

A Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion has been named, with members representing all sectors of the profession; they have begun working on recommendations to ensure that AATJ’s leadership, programs, and policies reflect the diversity of the teaching profession and of the large community of learners of the Japanese language and fans of Japanese culture. Recommendations are expected in the late summer of 2021.

2020 – Year of the Rat

Enjoy this award-winning student artwork from the 2020 Year of the Rat New Year’s Card contest.

2020 at the Program for Teaching East Asia

When CU moved to a virtual campus in March 2020, the Program for Teaching East Asia (TEA) had just completed our winter offering of six online national courses on Asia for K-12 teachers. We were fortunate that much of our National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) professional development programming for teachers was already virtual. However, much of TEA’s programming since March has been redesigned to serve classroom teachers who have had to learn new strategies for remote classroom instruction and using online platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom.

With two annual summer residential programs cancelled, TEA director Lynn Parisi and staff spent spring 2020 refocusing to offer short online courses throughout the spring and summer and to move to from asynchronous to live formats. TEA created a new “Maymester” that included several online book groups and seminars, as well as webinars and live Zoom classrooms, which were new directions for us. In both our Maymester and our newly developed “Summer School,” TEA brought in speakers from the CU campus and around the country. One of our most successful offerings was “NCTA Summer Movie Nights,” featuring live discussions of feature films on China, Japan, and Korea for classroom use. TEA served over 500 teachers in specially developed programs during spring and summer 2020. 

At the same time, TEA has sought through the year to address the issues of racial bias and stereotyping arising out of the coronavirus pandemic. TEA offered a live webinar on the topic with CU Professor of Ethnic Studies Jennifer Ho and distributed a resource guide to teachers nationally. In September, TEA research faculty member Dr. Lynn Kalinauskas was awarded an Outreach Grant from CU’s Office of Outreach and Engagement to develop and offer an interactive project to promote classroom discussion of COVID-19 impact and pandemic-related social bias. Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 in China and the U.S. through Literature and Writing will be offered in early 2021 and will work with 10 Colorado secondary teachers to introduce their students to the book Wuhan Diaries: Dispatches from a Quarantined Cityby the Chinese author Fang Fang. An online Contemporary Issues course centered on this book will also be offered to teachers nationally through TEA’s NCTA program.

In addition to the CU Office of Outreach and Engagement mini-grant, this year TEA received a small grant from the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in San Francisco. With these funds, TEA’s Korea Projects Coordinator Catherine Ishida conducted a virtual professional development course, Teaching Korea through Children’s Literature, for twenty K-8 teachers from around the United States. The workshop featured live lectures with a Korean children’s specialist, discussion of several Korean picture books in translation, and discussion about past and present Korean culture and society as well as cross-curricular pedagogical strategies to broaden students’ worldview.