Why I’m not a “lecturer”

Every so often a student asks me why I am not a “lecturer”. Often it happens after I’ve helped them understand something from their course, or (as it did this week) after I’ve given a revision seminar on some topic from their course.

Now I do realise that they are giving me a compliment by saying this. They are saying in their roundabout way that I did a good job of my teaching and therefore deserve to be a “real” lecturer. And I’m flattered.

But even so, I do like to answer the question they actually asked, and it’s high time I did it publicly so everyone knows.

The first and most banal answer to the question is that, actually, I am a lecturer — “lecturer” is my official title. I don’t need to be a “real” lecturer in the sense of giving lectures to large classes in particular courses because what I do already makes me a real lecturer — it’s a perfectly legitimate activity for an academic (though not everyone in the University agrees with this).

The second and truest answer is that it’s much more fun teaching in the Maths Learning Centre than it is lecturing! I really love my job and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else!

As a lecturer in the Maths Learning Centre I get to do things I have always loved doing as legitimate parts of my job. I get to do papier-mache and play-dough and puzzles, and I can be publicly excited about maths on a daily basis. And I can be publicly excited about the learning of maths on a daily basis too and discuss with others who are interested about how people learn maths and how to help them learn maths.

And even more than these, I get to spend most of my time talking to actual students one-on-one! I get to be there at the moment they learn and see the spark in their eyes as they realise how it all fits together. I get to help them realise they actually can do it themselves, and sometimes see their tears of joy as the walls of their bad experiences with maths begin to fall down. I get to see people progress from terrified at the sight of a mathematical symbol to being able to construct a proof all by themselves to passing on their knowledge to other students.

And that’s why I’m not a “lecturer”. How could I possibly trade all of that in to “lecture”?

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