Mar 11, 2010 – EducationNews.org
By Michael F. Shaughnessy
I teach at Saint Maur International School, a small private co-educational school in Yokohama, Japan. I came here in 1977 and have been teaching History ever since. I have taught all grades in middle and high school
1) Glenn, exactly where are you teaching and what are you teaching?
I teach at Saint Maur International School, a small private co-educational school in Yokohama, Japan. I came here in 1977 and have been teaching History ever since. I have taught all grades in middle and high school, but currently I teach the second year of a three-year World History sequence (Grade 9) and the History courses in the two-year International Baccalaureate program: Japanese History (Grade 11), Modern World History (Grade 12), and Chinese History (Grade 12). I also taught Theory of Knowledge, another course in the IB Diploma program, in Grades 11-12, for 24 years until this year. I am the College Admissions Counselor as well and teach a class in Grades 11-12 to help students prepare to apply for and enter university. I am the head teacher (coordinator) of the high school and also the head of the Social Studies Department.
2) What kinds of students are you teaching?
We have students from age 2 through Grade 12, learning in an English environment and following the curricula set by the International Primary Curriculum (IPC, Grades 1-5), International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE, Grades 9-10), and International Baccalaureate (IB, Grades 11-12). They come from 35 different countries and speak many different languages at home, but English is the common language at school. They all attend university after graduation, most commonly in the U.S., Canada, or Britain, or in English-language universities in Japan.
3) Could you describe the IB curriculum?
It is quite a broad curriculum, which you can access at the IB website. In History, there are a number of options. All students study the major events of the 20th century, divided into five thematic topics. Each school should concentrate on two of the five topics: we study wars and dictatorships. There is also a set topic which does not change from year to year, with three options: we study international relations between World Wars I and II. There are four regions of the world as well, from which each school has to choose one to study in depth: we study East Asia from the 18th through 20th centuries, mainly China and Japan. Those are the three examined sections of the curriculum.
4) How did you first get this position?
When I was in college, I decided that I wanted to teach overseas, and I applied to many different international schools, even though I had only a bachelor’s degree and very little teaching experience. Saint Maur was willing to take a chance on me. Later I returned to graduate school for a master’s degree, but otherwise I have been here since then.
5) What are the challenges that YOU face on a daily basis?
Organizing a vast curriculum in a clear and meaningful way, so that I can convey both the big picture and the small details to my students memorably and accurately, to enable them to reconstruct a lost past in their imagination and further their interest in times and places beyond their immediate experience.
6) How motivated are your students?
Some are, some aren’t. There is a big gap between middle school and high school, so some students become discouraged when they enter Grade 9. Generally the students who choose IB History in Grades 11-12 are the ones who like the subject, so they stay motivated, but they are very busy and tired.
7) I understand that one of your high school students just got into the Concord Review. Bring us up to date on this, as I feel YOU deserve some recognition too!
Kaya Nagayo, a 12th grader at Saint Maur, wrote her IB Extended Essay on trade between the Ainu (the indigenous people of Hokkaido) and the merchants and warriors who entered Hokkaido from Honshu during the period from 1650 to 1720. She did an enormous amount of research and had far more material than she could include (as there is a 4000-word limit), but she focused on the most meaningful aspects of the relationship, and she developed some fresh and interesting conclusions. I enjoyed watching her grow as an historian, but I played no role other than as an observer.
8) How long have you been teaching and how many more years can you hang in there?
I have been teaching since 1977, when I was 22. I will retire at age 65 and move to Hokkaido with my wife.
9) What have I neglected to ask?
Good luck in your future!