I moved to New York last year with the intention of working with children’s books. Initially, I thought about teaching again, but I felt I lacked the training necessary to be a great teacher. In Japan, as an assistant teacher, there were many times when I wished I knew better how to respond to a class’s lack of enthusiasm, confusion, or frustration. I tried to read up on education and teaching, but it was difficult for me to apply the methods I read about.
One of the things I loved the most about my job was making up activities and handouts for the students, especially for the special education and elementary school classes I taught where I had more flexibility with the direction of lessons.
I made storybooks with fill-in-the-blanks and cut-and-paste vocabulary, memory cards with Disney characters, calendars, illustrations, and posters. I got really excited about finding children’s books in English at the students’ level to read with them. I spent hours on websites trying to figure out the best materials for language-learning education. I realized I had almost as much fun making the materials as teaching with them.
While there’s a special thrill to interacting with students, seeing them progress, and watching their personalities develop, I felt more at home making educational materials than using them in real-world situations. I knew that when I returned from Japan, I wanted to continue to help making classrooms amazing, but in a different role than as a teacher. I decided that I wanted to design children’s books.
It took nearly nine months for me to realize that vision. I applied to so many publishing houses, I lost count. It felt like no one was reading my cover letters, other than my family and friends who helped me edit them. It felt so frustrating to know what I wanted to do, but to not be able to get there. In hindsight, nine months isn’t so long to realize a dream, but at the time, it felt impossibly long (you know, the kind of impossibly long that it feels like no one else in the world could be or ever could have experienced as much as you). But then at the end of June, I started a new job, working in the children’s books design department of a publishing house.
Of course, I haven’t started to design any children’s books yet. I have to work my way up to that level of responsibility, but it feels so encouraging to at least be in the right staircase (even if only on the first stair). There are challenges here too. I love interacting with students and getting to read with them. I miss Japan and all the people I met there. I miss co-workers from transitional jobs I held in New York. Nothing is ever perfect, new dreams are always popping up and asking to be recognized, but I’m feeling more confident now, that with time and hard work, things will work themselves out.