Todai student returns to education center as teacher(東大生、寺子屋に恩返し）
KORIYAMA, Fukushima -- During his school days, Aoi Fujita had an aversion to studying, until his mother forced him go to a local remedial learning center that offered free tutoring.
The 19-year-old Fujita, now in his second year at the University of Tokyo, has returned to the center where he developed a love of learning as a form of payback after being one of the upward of 1,000 students who have been helped since it opened about seven years ago.
The aim of Terakoya Koriyama, located in a room in Koriyama's community hall, is to support elementary and junior high schoolers who have fallen behind in their studies, with former teachers among those tutoring them for free.
Starting this autumn, Fujita has been earnestly devoting himself to the task of tutoring, hoping to convey "a joy of learning" and pique the students' curiosity.
Fujita himself started going to Terakoya when he was in his first year of junior high school at the urging of his mother. At that point, he deplored studying, and was hardly enthusiastic about getting tutoring. "At first, I didn't get into it," he recalled.
However, rather than focusing on getting answers right or passing tests, the tutors emphasized the thought process involved, and Fujita found it fun to think about problems and find answers on his own, guided by their method of teaching.
Before he knew it, he no longer felt like a bad learner. In his second year in junior high school, Fujita entered Fukushima Prefecture's math Olympics and won a silver medal. At that moment, he became aware that he had developed scholastic ability.
Terakoya officially started in April 2014. The Koriyama city government cooperates in administration, and the tutors come from various backgrounds, including a former high school principal, an English interpreter and a Buddhist priest. It is a gathering of adults who want to share their specialties and experience with children.
The type of students also varies greatly. There are those who like studying, those who have trouble learning, and those who for personal reasons have stopped going to school. The style is to basically have the students study on their own and ask tutors questions on things they don't understand.
"I hope the students grow through experiences that build their own strengths and potential," said Terakoya head Takashi Tomita, 73, a former school superintendent in the prefecture.
As he was studying at Terakoya, Fujita said he had begun to think, "Someday I want to come back here to teach how to study."
That wish eventually came true. Someone with ties to Terakoya, having learned that Fujita was back home because the University of Tokyo had gone to online classes during the pandemic, invited him to come on staff and he immediately accepted.
Fujita said there were times he found it difficult to teach how to study, but he remained positive. "I want to support the children's development in my own way."
To children who struggle to learn, Fujita offers this advice: "It's important to think about what you are not good at. It's also enjoyable to be able to find that out. Finding fun aspects of your own is the secret to overcoming your weaknesses."
As for his future, "Someday, I want to use the knowledge and experience I gained at Terakoya to develop technology that can be of help to others," Fujita said.
（ Translated by The Japan News ）
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