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Looking For Answers: Teachers In Japan Have Lengthy Work Days, Face Unique Challenges

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TWC News: Looking For Answers: Teachers In Japan Have Lengthy Work Days, Face Unique Challenges
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In the final story in NY1's series comparing education in Tokyo to education in New York, NY1's Lindsey Christ looks at what it's like to be a teacher in Japan. She filed the following report.

TOKYO - Being a teacher has never been easy, but educators in Tokyo say these days, it's harder than ever. It's the same thing teachers in New York say.

"Teachers come to school at 7 a.m. and greet the children as they enter," Yasuko Muramatsu, president of Tokyo Gakugei University, said through an interpreter. "After the children leave, they start preparing for the next day's classes, and they stay at school until 7, 8, or 9 p.m. We do not think it's a healthy situation."

Now, it seems they may face even more responsibility, with Tokyo on the brink of reinstating Saturday school. It's a plan almost all teachers oppose, but the teachers here have little power. Many aren't even members of the union anymore.

In fact, teachers in Tokyo are actually moved to a different school every six years. Principals are reassigned even more frequently.

It's something New York teachers would vehemently oppose, but in Tokyo, educators say they understand - even like - the policy.

"When a successful principal is moved to another school, it spreads the success and helps elevate the whole district," Harukazu Fukuda, a principal, said through an interpreter.

"Experiencing various situation is needed as a public school teacher," said Mai Ebisawa, a teacher at Wada Junior High.

Once they're at a particular school, teachers are encouraged to collaborate. Every school has an office where all teachers have a desk and computer.

"I can't imagine the school life without teacher’s room because we share a lot of students' information, updating," Ebisawa said.

Just as the pressures on teachers may be universal, so are the rewards.

"Teaching isn't a job that makes a young person rich or gives them prestige, but it allows you to participate in building someone else's life," Muramatsu said through an interpreter.

When asked why she became a teacher, Ebisawa said, "When I was junior high school student, I had a wonderful teacher."

When asked what makes her continue, even when things are difficult, Ebisawa said, "When they smile, when their face turns to bright, that's the reason we can continue our hard work."

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