This month’s interview is with Ms. M, who is in the first year of the Master’s course in Sustainable Society Studies in the Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering.
Ms. M resigned from her job this year before entering the graduate school. She is a science major who graduated from the Science Course in the Department of Educational Science in the Faculty of Education, the University of Yamanashi (the Faculty of Education and Human Sciences, as of today after reorganization）and had been teaching at elementary and junior high schools until this year.
She continued her own research activity (although she says it’s more like a hobby than a research in modesty) besides her job, also got married and raised children along her career. In her words, “I always chose what I wanted,” she says. She is an ideal role model for me. “Axis” is also her word that she mentioned later in this interview which also explains her well.
I have a lot of questions to ask on her undergraduate study, career, work-life balance, graduate school and research. Let’s begin the interview!
Q: What brought you to become a teacher??
A： When I was a child, there were few kinds of jobs that women could choose and I thought teacher was the most gender free. I was thinking about becoming a teacher since I was a child. I entered the University of Yamanashi as I wanted to stay in Yamanashi. Besides academic subjects, I learned a lot from personalities and the teaching attitudes of professors I met. I would say that an encounter with one of those professors defined the way of my life (more details are later).
Q: You are in the graduate school now. Have you ever thought about going to the masters’ right after undergraduate?
A: The Faculty of Education did not have any graduate program at that time. Only engineering did.
Q: Having gone through the recruiting exam for public school teachers, you were assigned to the first class. How was it?
A: In short, it was just “tough.” My class had 31 students in the second grade. Children of that age are instinctive like an animal (lol) and seemed to be able to see through that I wasn’t confident enough. I didn’t have much experience, and the children were either not in much of control of themselves being in the only second year. Maybe I was already in my 40s when I finally started to feel a little easier. I came through literally tough days for long years.
Q: I think all freshmen in any occupation experience a gap between ideal and reality. Have you ever wanted to quit teaching?
A: Never ever! (What a prompt reply!）
It was a hard time though, as I just mentioned. I could hardly take it easy. I was always struggling to find the best way every time I face different people. At the same time, however, I enjoyed my job. Children always reflect what I did for them in their performance and behavior. Not so many teachers have taught at both elementary and junior high schools like I did. I also experienced teaching a combined class.
Each grade, classroom and individual is unique so I teach differently depending on various atmospheres.
A reaction from student is a result of my action. I have to try another way when students didn’t understand what I said very well. On the other hand, it made me really happy and feel confident when they said “I got it!” Some students gave me a phone call a few years later or told me that they were going to be a science teacher. One of them are actually making it into reality and becoming a science teacher soon. I’m very happy for them.
Q: I’m also happy for you. Would you tell me about the most impressive class or school?
A: All classes were impressive but if I have to choose one, it’s a class in the 8th grade of one of the junior high schools. Back at that time, it was one of the so-called “troubled schools.” It was a tough time but I didn’t allow myself to give up! I set up a one-on-one meeting with each student, asked parents for their support and often stayed at school until late. We were a strongly united team lead by a teaching supervisor. I have never felt such strong sense of togetherness.
After all the hard work, we were so glad to see the class finally and successfully graduated. At the same time, we started to feel a change in an impression to the school from local people living in the school area. We were also glad to see such change.
Actually, I was assigned to that school right after maternity leave. It was a difficult start (lol)
Q: You are married and also have children. Would you be able to let us know how you balance your job and family responsibility? How was the maternity leave?
A: When I had the first baby, I was back at work within a couple of weeks after the baby was born. I had the second baby at the age of 31, and I took off from work for nine month at that time. I was living with my mother so she often took care of the babies, too. I could not have concentrated on my work without understanding of my husband and support from my mother.
Sometimes I could go home early after work and spend time with my family. But they knew my character (lol) and my children understood that I was busy with work. They never complained as long as I remember.
A three-year maternity leave system is in discussion these days but a blank of three-years seems to be difficult and too long for teachers. Working environment and working situations could widely change in three years and that would make teachers on maternity leave feel anxious. It’s just my personal opinion that having more people or nursery kind of spaces to take care of children is more important than a longer period of maternity leave.
In that sense, I can’t thank my family enough. I’m really thankful to my family for their support in child care.
This is all for this edditon.
The next interview is about her study… something slimy^^