What is THT?
Teachers Helping Teachers or THT (http://www.tht-japan.org/) is a grassroots organization founded by the late Bill Balsamo and other members of the Himeji City Chapter of JALT (the Japanese Association for Language Teachers) in 2004. THT helps teachers and students in and around Asia by providing professional development seminars and workshops in language education.
Where exactly does it operate?
THT runs professional development seminars in Bangladesh, Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam. Since 2009, it has also run seminars at Bishkek Humanities University in Kyrgyzstan.
Why does it go to Kyrgyzstan?
Ask Prof Brent Jones! Actually, one of his former students comes from Kyrgyzstan, and she heard him talking about THT and what it does. She approached him and asked if it was possible to run a seminar at her university. One thing led to another and he convinced me to go with him. That was the inaugural (first) seminar in 2009.
When does the Kyrgyz seminar take place?
The seminar in Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, takes place in mid-September, just before classes resume at CUBE. We try to schedule at least three full days of presentations and workshops, with roughly three sessions running concurrently (at the same time).
Who participates in it?
Last year, there were just the two of us. However, this year we expanded the programme to eight instructors based in Japan. Five them of them were from CUBE, meaning that besides Brent and myself there were Greg Rouault and Richard Silver from the Management Programme and Eric Gondree from Study Abroad.
Why do teachers volunteer to go there?
It’s a great chance to meet fellow educators and students from Central Asia and learn about a new teaching context; it gives us an opportunity to share our ideas about teaching with fellow educators; it allows us to practice giving lectures, presentations and workshops; it provides an impetus for doing research into new areas in order to prepare for the sessions; it enhances career opportunities through giving internationally acknowledged presentations recognized by the Japan Association of Language Teachers. They also get to learn about a new culture, its people, language, food, and see its beautiful nature firsthand. We make lots of new friends, too.
Why do the teachers and students attend?
The participants get to attend a professional development seminar in their own country for free. Most of the teachers have no chance to go overseas to a conference, or to network with other professionals in their country. It’s often the first step on the path to a much more exciting and meaningful career as a teacher.
How does THT get funding?
THT relies on the goodwill of the volunteers who do all the work. It’s like any organization: it’s only as good as the people who are part of it. We also have a separate scholarship fund, which anybody can give money to. This helps students in poorer Asian countries who normally have no opportunity to get an education.
What’s the connection with Japan?
Because THT was started in Japan, it is a Japanese organization and most of its volunteers live here. It is something we can all be proud of. Also, the university department we work with in Kyrgyzstan, which has done so much to make a success of the seminars in Bishkek, is the Japanese department. So we are really grateful to all the teachers there. The cooperation between language teachers teaching a variety of languages is crucial.
Can I get involved?
Yes, of course! Our students have already been to the Philippines on a service learning project. We hope that in 2011, some CUBE students will accompany us to Kyrgyzstan – the first country in Central Asia to hold free and fair parliamentary elections!