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I doubt my ability to be a full-time university lecturer

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a man in my 20s who got the post of full-time university lecturer at a liberal arts faculty this past spring. However, I’m upset because I don’t feel I’m suited to the teaching profession, and I feel like it hasn’t allowed me the freedom to advance my own research.

I’m grateful to the university for hiring me because getting a full-time lecturer post is very difficult today. At the same time, however, I believe I’m not qualified for the post, because most of my students still don’t listen to me in the classroom, even though six months have passed since I started. I can’t proceed with my research as I expected, either. I feel I’m not cut out to be a scholar.

I believe only extremely capable people can become faculty members. This makes me think I should leave my post, as I have no ability or confidence.

I sought advice from some senior colleagues about this. They encouraged me, saying: “You should go through trials and errors while you are young. For now, you don’t have to be so concerned about whether you can teach well,” and “You are very talented. You’ve already got the coveted full-time post, so take your time conducting research.”

Despite their opinions, I still feel I should provide lectures of the highest quality and present usable research results as long as I am getting paid. I have no idea how to deal with this feeling.

S, Gifu Prefecture

Dear Mr. S:

Although I don’t know what your field of study is, I would want to have such a modest person like you as a colleague. I also remember my mentor at university frequently said to me and other students: “You have the privilege of studying longer than others. You should feel that debt and return the favor to society sometime in the future.”

In this respect, your senior colleagues are quite right. It’s natural you can’t teach well from the beginning. You can’t make strides on your research just because you’ve got full-time status, either. I’m envious you have supportive senior colleagues.

Although I described you as being modest, you may be a perfectionist, in reality. As the first step to improve your teaching, you should truly see your students and speak as if you’re personally talking to them. You don’t have to try hard to have all of your students understand what you’re teaching, but instead think it’s OK if those interested in your topic can gain a little more knowledge.

Novice university teachers usually can’t secure sufficient time for their research as they are busy dealing with students and doing other tasks. You should not try to produce academic achievements as soon as possible, but consider your first year or so as a period to explore the course of your research.

I suggest you keep going as you are now. You are still young. You have a long way to go and time to return the favor to society.

Masahiro Yamada, professor

(from Oct. 14, 2017, issue)Speech

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