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Rinko Manabe

Rinko Manabe [Profile]

Students in the Teacher-Training Program

Rinko Manabe
Associate Professor of Career education and Lifelong learning, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University

Season for teaching apprenticeships

May and June of every year are the season for teaching apprenticeships. When Japanese people reflect back upon their own schooling, I'm sure they have many memories of the seasonal event in which apprentices (university students) came to teach at school every year. Unlike the normal full-time teachers at school, these somewhat unsteady young men and women are faltering in their instruction. However, their great effort as apprentice teachers undoubtedly leaves a lasting impression on students.

Since entering Chuo University, I have been involved in teaching apprenticeships every year as a supervising faculty member of apprenticeships. The previous school at which I was employed was a university focusing on teacher development, so I have a long relationship with apprentice teachers. Personally, I spend every day during this period of teaching apprenticeships feeling a slightly different kind of nervousness than normal.

Teaching apprenticeships are a course in which university students affiliated with the teacher-training program spend three weeks working as an apprentice at an actual school. These apprenticeships serve as comprehensive review for obtaining a teaching license. Strictly speaking, these apprenticeships are entirely part of university courses. However, the activities are held at actual schools and teachers at the accepting schools serve as supervisors. University faculty members provide preliminary instruction and follow-up instruction, observe classes taught by the apprentice teacher, view daily records and judge whether or not the apprenticeship was a success. In summary, apprenticeships are a mechanism in which universities and educational institutions cooperate to cultivate teachers during the final phase of their education.

Teacher-training program at Chuo University

Students studying at Chuo University can obtain teaching licenses for junior high school and high school. Therefore, students perform apprenticeships at one of these schools. Although some students perform apprenticeships at their alma maters, the majority of apprenticeships are held at what are known as specified schools within the Tokyo metropolitan area. In the case of specified schools, apprentice teachers are especially nervous because it is their first time going to the school.

Every year, almost 400 students (almost 300 from Tama Campus and almost 100 from Korakuen Campus) participate in teaching apprenticeships held by Chuo University. When excluding universities which focus on teacher development, there are very few universities which produce such a large number of apprentices.

At Chuo University, which does not focus solely on teacher development, teachers are cultivated by holding teacher-training programs in addition to the curriculum of the student's affiliated faculty. Students enrolled in the teacher-training program must obtain more credits than are required to graduate in their major. Teaching courses include teaching-related courses, education-related courses and subject-related courses, and it is necessary to obtain a large number of credits for each course. The teacher-training program at Chuo University starts from a student's second year at university. Therefore, students enroll in the required classes during the two-year period before they participate in teaching apprenticeships as a 4th-year student. As a result, many 2nd- and 3rd-year students are quite busy taking teaching courses in addition to classes for their own major.

Furthermore, in order to obtain a teaching license for junior high schools, students are required to acquire a total of 7 days of experience in nursing care. 5 of these days are at nursing care facilities and 2 are at schools. Students who wish to obtain a teaching license for junior high school cannot participate in teaching apprenticeships unless they have fulfilled this nursing care experience and completed courses which are required for participation in apprenticeships. This means that it is quite strenuous for students to reach a point where they are eligible to participate in teaching apprenticeships. In fact, more than a few students quit before ever starting their apprenticeships.

Importance of orientation for apprenticeships

Students become eligible for teaching apprenticeships by following the process described above. However, about one year prior to the start of apprenticeships, students must participate about seven times in orientations for apprenticeships. Although the term orientation is used, these events are actually important classes which provide preliminary instruction regarding apprenticeships. Each of the orientations is held several times. However, they come with the strict condition that unexcused absence or tardiness will result in immediate expulsion from the apprenticeship program. At the teacher-development university where I was formerly employed, these orientations (preliminary instruction) were all held during the first class hour starting from 8:50am on Monday mornings. Moreover, all participating students were required to wear suits. Students are used to a university life in which being slightly lax about time is often forgiven. However, there is no such lenience once a student begins working as a teaching apprentice. This is the reason for the rather severe instruction.

Many students begin the teacher-training program with the casual idea of acquiring some sort of certification while they are studying at university. Students taking employment examinations prior to graduation are actually a minority among students enrolled in the teacher-training program. Many students are enrolled in the program while performing job-search activities for employment at normal corporations or in civil service. In that respect, it is true that many students take a casual attitude towards preparing for teaching apprenticeships. However, the matter is more important for universities which deploy students to teaching apprenticeships. Teaching is a profession which is related to the education of children. Currently, educational institutions are extremely busy and the acceptance of apprentice teachers places a great load on schools which undertake supervision. Despite such difficulties, teachers at schools which accept apprenticeships juggle their time constraints and work in order to assist in cultivating the next generation of teachers. Through orientations, students develop the proper attitude for participating in apprenticeships. Past apprentice teachers and full-time teachers from accepting schools participate in the orientations and help students to form an image of the upcoming apprenticeship.

Time for the actual apprenticeship-reporting to school as a faculty member

Apprentice teachers are a member of the faculty. For university students, the school atmosphere to which they have adjusted and the time spent at school was viewed through their position as students. This forms their concept of school life. Apprentice teachers now exist as faculty members within this familiar concept of school life. Apprentices come to work at school and complete attendance charts. They manage student attendance and distribute materials. They prepare for and teach actual classes. Furthermore, they conduct homeroom. Recently, sports festivals coincide with the apprenticeship period at many schools, and apprentice teachers work to prepare for the festival and conduct operation on the actual day of the event. Depending on the accepting school and students, apprentices may also assist in instruction for club activities. All such activities are part of the same school life that apprentices experienced when they were student themselves. However, their perspective will change now that they are in a different position. In many cases, university students returning from their 3-week apprenticeship period show that they have matured significantly. University students reporting back after completing their apprenticeship period speak happily about how students held a farewell party for them on their last day of training. They recall how all of the students wrote messages on a goodbye card, and they reflect on how the students behaved during classes, after school, at school events and during club activities. Many returning university students state that they wanted to remain at the school forever. Some students who were unsure about pursuing a career in teaching return with a reaffirmed and strong desire to become a teacher. Conversely, there are some students who return with the feeling that teaching was an enjoyable experience, but is not a career for which they are suited. Indeed, students apply their experiences gained as an apprentice teacher to their future paths.

After completing the teaching apprenticeship

Every year, from among students who have finished the teaching apprenticeship, completed the teacher-training program and obtained their teaching license, about 20 to 30 students actually become teachers after graduation. When totaling past graduates, our university has produced more than 2,000 teachers. This year, more than 30 graduates have started their career as teachers. Some of these students passed the employment examination for full-time teachers, while some of the students failed the examination and are currently employed as part-time instructors. Although these new teachers will be confronted by difficult problems at their schools of employment, I have great expectations for them. Even in the case of students who selected a different career path despite obtaining their teaching license, they will undoubtedly have many opportunities to conduct educational activities throughout their life. Moreover, separate from a career, they will once again become involved with schools when raising their own children. At that time, I hope that they will recall what they learned in the teacher-training program and will become parents who cooperate with schools in order to raise our children.

Rinko Manabe
Associate Professor of Career education and Lifelong learning, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Born in Kyoto. Completed the Doctoral Program in the Faculty of Education, Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University.
Her hobbies are cooking (although, she just makes home-style cooking instead of elaborate recipes) and meeting new people.