Past Leaders & People
Here is the story of the CASLT conference of 1980, and my term as president. I confess that a twenty-year time lapse has somewhat dimmed the memory of that occasion. In truth, my recollection of the CASLT conference of 1980 was more that of being a team member than occupying the role of president. I contacted recently a number of people who were co-members of the Conference Planning Committee. We have had the opportunity to reflect together on that long past event and using our collective memories, there appeared to be four significant features to the Saskatoon Conference. To the best of our recollecions, it was not until late January or early February, 1980, that we were notified that the Conference, which had originally been scheduled for Regina, was now going to be held in Saskatoon. Thus it was with a sense of urgency that we began our preparations. In recent conversations with members of the 1980 Conference Committee, a number of clichés described the moment: "All hands on deck!" "Shoulders to the wheel!" - "Courage! A l'attaque!". On a personal note, I think I may have the distinction of serving the shortest term of any CASLT president - four months. I was, however, very fortunate in having so many people and groups who contributed their efforts. Here are some examples of the wonderful help and cooperation we received:
- The provincial second language teachers' associations in French (SATF), German (SATG), and Ukrainian (STU) lent their support.
- The May 8 evening session (Conference Focus -Vignettes -wine cheese) was jointly sponsored by the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan; the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation; and the Bilingual Education Centre, University of Saskatchewan (now the Centre for Second Language Instruction).
- A luncheon was offered by the City of Saskatoon, at which the mayor, Clifford Wright, welcomed the attendees, and Sonia (Cipywnyk) Morris introduced the guest speaker, Keith Spicer.
- The evening banquet was hosted by the province of Saskatchewan, and the Vesna Committee was very helpful in arranging tickets for the Ukrainian Spring Festival and Cabaret. (Delegates were impressed with the filet mignon served at the banquet!)
- We were also pleased to receive financial and moral support from the Regional Coordinator for Multicultural Affairs, George Stushnoff, and the Regional Coordinator for Official Languages, Andre Nogue.
- Even friends and neighbours were drawn in: Dolores Brisebois and Ruth Robinson worked long and diligently to organize and carry out the registration procedures.
Apart from preparing the programme, various members of the planning committee participated in additional duties: arranging hotel facilities, providing audio-visual equipment for the sessions, organizing publishers' displays and introducing speakers. Still other members spent time writing, rehearsing and eventually performing skits/vignettes for the May 8 opening session "Conference Focus" in which they gently lampooned the foibles of teachers, students, and administrators in second language programmes.
Other than the shock of being belatedly informed of our role as the new conference site, there was yet another surprise in store for us. Based on the pre registration figures, we had anticipated about 200-220 attendees. In fact, if memory serves us right, over 350 registered, and this required some last minute juggling of hotel accommodation, catering, and space allotment for a number of sessions.
The Saskatoon conference marked the occasion of a new addition to CASLT's family of languages. We believe this was the first time at one of our conferences that we had representation from First Nations languages. The invocation was given in Cree and three conference sessions were led by Cree educators: Ida McLeod, Head of the Language Programme at the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College; Verna Kirkness, freelance language consul-tant from Manitoba; and a panel of Cree language teachers who shared their experiences. Part of the entertainment for the conference was performed by Cree hoop dancer Bill Britain. We were pleased to have First Nations attendees from as far distant as the Yukon.
There was a third feature of the 1980 Conference that we think was innovative. On Saturday morning, May 10, Jim Jones (President CASLT 1974-1975) presented a paper entitled "Toward Better Second Language Programs." This was part of an initiative to emphasize the role of administrators in Second Language Education and a special invitation was sent out to this group.
There is one last important point that appears to be fixed in our collective memory. After the closing of the Saskatoon Conference, we recall that a group of the planning committee met in mid-May for a debriefing session to talk about our experiences. We first took stock of our own successes and shortcomings. We were delighted to have been able to serve the needs and wishes of such a large number and wide variety of second language teachers. We felt, however, that a change in structure was needed to avoid the difficulties we experienced due to the short lead time for preparation.
Many of the long-term members of CASLT will remember how our annual conferences used to be organized. It happened like this: a city was chosen as the conference site, a planning committee was struck and the chair of the committee was named president. The president then occupied a dual role. As a result of our conference experience, we identified the need for a new structure for the organization. At that time, we formulated a proposal which we sent to the then Office of the Secretary of State recommending the establishment of a permanent secretariat and the separation of the role of president from the conference chair, so that during the year the president, and permanent secretariat, could take forward the vision of the organization to governments and other agencies, and carry out other tasks. Perhaps in some small way, this proposal from the 1980 conference contributed to the development of the present CASLT structure. Although you have taxed our memories we congratulate the Board of Directors, for taking the initiative in focusing on the history of the evolution of CASLT. As one committee member put it: "In order to know where we are going, it is worthwhile to gain some perspective on where we have been. " Another member said, "Organizations need to be vigilant in maintaining their history, particularly those organizations that have such a diverse membership". A corporate memory helps us understand what the issues were which created the need for the organization. When an organization's agenda needs to be communicated to such a wide variety of agencies and individuals over time, some kind of collective message needs to be both documented and revisited.
Published in the November 2000 Anniversary Issue of Réflexions