Why Teaching on Purpose

In my professional life I have a lot of doorway conversations with other academics, in an almost lewd manner, discussing what we do when we teach. I don’t mean like the large stuff. I’m talking about the small, everyday, boring dumb stuff that you don’t think about. Like the type of music they play in class or what they wear to work.

I started teaching by accident.  I found myself teaching mostly because I wanted as a librarian to help people, and in academia that means helping students, and the best way to help students is to teach them. After a certain point of doing things accidentally, it’s important to think about doing things on purpose, moving in a specific direction with specific intent. It’s important not to sneak, but to stride.

This blog is called Teaching On Purpose. It is a double meaning: one meaning is the need for more responsible teaching and learning, meaning ethical, sustainable, and purpose-driving teaching. But it also reflects an intent. Too often librarians end up teaching on accident. At some point in the information instruction game, we knew we wanted a seat at the table, and we wanted students to become more information literate, and the most logical way was for us to get into the classrooms and make it happen. We’re not unique in this. I think many academics didn’t plan to teach, but found that teaching was the best way to impact lives, to do life-giving research, to find their intellectual niche.

If we want to make real impacts through our teaching, we have to do it on purpose. Teaching purpose isn’t all the high things, it can also be the small things, the thing that you don’t do on purpose at first but then you stumble on it after a while and it just makes sense. It’s important that we find ourselves here. It’s the series of practices that makes us whole. To teach on purpose is the easiest method to a means. It’s not just because it seemed like a good idea at the time, but because it’s important, we’re important, and our students are important.

I don’t want to do things on accident so I have conversations in the hallways. I already write quite a bit for librarians, but I feel like most of my writing is often at the end of projects, and includes large, more serious questions. These aren’t conversations that are fully formed enough that you could “discover” them and publish in a scholarly journal. And they don’t really carry meaning that I would feel comfortable traveling to a conference just to share them. When I talk about teaching, I talk a lot about those things, but those conversations, because they are spoken, are often very ethereal. So I decided to start this blog. This blog is about the small little bits of intentional teaching that happen every day.