Mid-March: the days lengthening, and the air softening with the passage into spring. In two weeks time we’ll be saying farewell to our graduating students, and to this academic year. I am also racing to prepare for the new one. The anxiety of preparing the new syllabus never seems to diminish. The message I have to keep telling myself is the same one I use to reassure my students: ‘It’s okay to feel confused. In fact, it’s a necessary part of learning … Yes, I know it’s hard,’ I say when I’m trying to help them get or stay focused on a writing project. ‘Just take it step by step.’ Inevitably, I start telling stories about growing up in a small village in Maine, and then moving to the very different world of Washington, DC at the age of six. ‘If you want to develop the ability to wander, to take delight in discovering the woods or the big city, you have to cultivate the ability to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. We have to keep working and not to be afraid of getting lost.’ I remember how true this is as I reflect on my perennial struggle with my Introduction to American Studies lecture class here at Miyazaki Municipal University (MMU). That struggle began with my attempts to understand and address the inherent constraints the university timetable imposed on me as the instructor and on the students as learners. It continues as I try to find ways to turn these constraints into a ‘springboard for improvement’ (Vieira, 2003: 220) and construct models of teacher and learner autonomy appropriate to our shared institutional setting.