Learning for an Expanding World: The Continuing Education Program

Nao Matsuda is currently working in several different fields: as an English teacher, high school music teacher, translator, and English pronunciation coach. She says that lessons she learned from the Continuing Education Program at Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) were a catalyst for acquiring new skills and expanding her range of experiences. We asked her a few questions to find out more about the program.

How did you discover the TUJ Continuing Education Program?

Through a web search. I was looking for somewhere to study that was not just an English school but that was specialized in some way. The tuition fee was reasonable and the words “continuing education” (生涯教育) really struck me. I knew about the main TUJ campus in Philadelphia, USA. The number of courses and the rich program really surprised me.

Since 2018, you have taken many courses and enrolled in several certificate programs. Could you tell us what was the incentive and motivation to do so?

Last year, I completed the “Teaching English to Japanese Learners” certificate. I’m now working on “International Business Communication” and “IT Skill Development: Computer Graphics & Web Design.” I never studied in a university before, so even the word “university” itself along with the surroundings fascinated me. The instructors were English speakers who taught lessons in different ways from how they are taught in Japan, and so alongside content, I was able to adapt my own teaching methods based on the methods I observed with my instructors. I was surprised at how assertive and confident the TUJ instructors were. The syllabus was firmly established with wonderful classes that appealed to students. The evaluation and the helpful feedback we received were superb as well.

The way that instructors followed up with students was also very motivational. During the “Business Negotiation” course, I was able to broaden my horizons while learning about the joy of language. The final project for “Teaching Vocabulary and Reading” was worth the all-night effort, as it received a high evaluation from the instructor. This praise I received made me truly happy, as if I were a child, and really motivated me. When my husband saw me studying day and night, he was “afraid” that he had no choice but to cooperate.

Another attraction of these courses is that other students come from different countries. Even after the end of the course, I still kept in touch with five or six of the people I’d met, and we attended events together and such. Students were from Spain, Ghana, Poland, and the Philippines. Forming connections with other students was precious to me. Before the coronavirus pandemic, when face-to-face lessons were still ongoing, I enjoyed Saturday and Sunday lectures as we all went to lunch together.

What impact did improving your skills have on your career?

After taking a particular course, I participated in a workshop for educators that specialized in English pronunciation. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be involved in Japanese translation for a company that developed an English language practice application. Technology, business, office work—everything came back to learning and skill development.

I’m currently a music teacher at a high school. While teaching across my wide range (piano, singing, band, voice training), I’ve noticed similarities between music and English. There are commonalities that can be exploited by teachers. After all, music is ultimately about “enjoying sound” and I want to spread the idea that English pronunciation too can be something that students can play around with and enjoy.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, both English and music lessons have moved online, but some students actually find this quite a suitable learning environment. If everything can be online using the latest technology, the whole teaching community can be open via a website, allowing students to share what they have learned with their peers, so that teaching and learning starts to move in both directions.

Nao Matsuda(Photo courtesy of ZOOM: Sept 2020)

Many TUJ courses are now available online?

When we went online, some people weren’t really used to that (laughs), but because everyone was friendly, we taught each other, which made the learning process fun. At the beginning, some instructors needed to adapt too, but now it all runs very smoothly.

What would your message be to anyone who is considering taking a course?

Even if you have any doubts, try it. There are many courses with a wide variety of students ranging from high school age to over 80. Age just does not matter. I think you will discover your love of learning. And just once is all it takes to get you addicted (laughs). If you start out based on your interests, I think you’ll find that your values and worldview will change.

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