Dr Jeslyn Sharnita Amarasekera is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English Studies, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, Kuala Lumpur. She completed her PhD in Postcolonial Literature in English at the National University of Malaysia (UKM) and her Master of World Literature at Universiti Putra Malaysia. She is passionate about literature and believes that teaching is her calling. Her main research interest is in transnational Asian literature in English, with reference to individual identity and ethnic diversity.
What is the pathway taken to be where you are now?
In order for an individual to pursue a career in lecturing or teaching, you are required to obtain a tertiary education. This means that you will have to pursue your degree and Masters. In most universities, there is a strong emphasis on each lecturer obtaining their PhD degree. Likewise, I had chosen to complete my Masters in World Literature and my PhD in Postcolonial Literature before joining the university faculty.
What do you think is a misperception that the general public has about your job, or an aspect to your job that many people aren’t aware of?
Well, the general idea about teaching is that it is an easy job. There is this saying, “Those who can do, those who can’t teach”. Given the tasks I have to deal with, I can definitely say that teaching is no easy task. You are dealing with students who have different capabilities and different levels of understanding. This means you have to find a way to make sure your lesson is delivered to cater to everyone. As an English lecturer, I have to deal with students who lack confidence when speaking in English. This means I am not only delivering the lesson and completing my syllabus, I am also making sure that my student leaves feeling a little better about speaking and communicating in English. You can have the smartest student in class, but it will not mean anything unless they have the right amount of self-esteem to use their knowledge. That’s what I work with too. Seeing my students become more confident as the weeks progress is something I will always find most satisfying.
You can have the smartest student in class, but it will not mean anything unless they have the right amount of self-esteem to use their knowledge. That’s what I work with too.
Do you think English in general is important? Why?
I think in order to communicate with anyone, you need English. Given that it is the main language used to converse with everyone elsewhere, this is absolutely vital for anyone who wants to advance in whatever career they pursue. I understand that we each have our native languages that we want to uphold, but in the world we live today, you cannot solely rely on one language to take you far in life. I have also come to realise that the ability to speak good English can also help an individual become more willing and daring to venture into other things they may have never thought of doing before. This is something I have witnessed my students do. The same ones who were too timid to converse in English are now using the language at their workplace to converse with people around the world.
What problems do you aim to solve in the country?
I don’t see myself as some sort of superhero who can save the world or the country for that matter. There are a lot of things that need to be fixed in the country. The education system itself needs to be reformed. The topics that are covered in each subject need to be reviewed. The list goes on. For me personally, I believe that if I can make my students use English competently and if I can make them think critically and logically, I am already one step closer to solving the many problems within the country.
The moment I step into a lecture hall or tutorial room, I am reminded of why I chose this path. The comfort and ease I feel while teaching and dealing with my students often eliminate the down moments.
Are there any down moments in your work?
I think like every other job in the world, there will be times where each person would question what they are doing and if this is truly what they want from their career. I have had some of those moments, and they can be frustrating. However, the moment I step into a lecture hall or tutorial room, I am reminded of why I chose this path. The comfort and ease I feel while teaching and dealing with my students often eliminate the down moments I feel here and there.
What is the most enjoyable thing to do in your job?
Communicating with my students. I may sound like I am exaggerating but I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing students! I have had a student come up to me after class to casually have a conversation about Russian literature because it is something he enjoys reading during his free time. Imagine that! I have had students who have blown me away with the depth of their analysis on the tasks they were assigned. I chose to become an educator because I wanted to make a difference, however small that may be. Seeing the difference I make in my students’ lives and the impact they have on my life; these are definitely the best parts of my job.
If you were able to turn back time, what would you tell your younger self?
Don’t give your teachers and lecturers a hard time! I was never a bad student, but I know for a fact I was one of those who was always talkative and loud in class. I will forever be thankful for having the most wonderful teachers and lecturers who have guided me and put up with all the nonsense I had done in class. Karma definitely exists!