15 April 2011

Librarians as Teachers: the Question

A very close friend and colleague, Cinse Bonino, directs Champlain's Center for Instructional Practice. Essentially, it is our teaching and learning center. But Cinse is such an incredibly creative and original, it is not your run of the mill teaching and learning center.

In preparation for an all-campus retreat that is coming up, Cinse asked professors around campus to answer a series of questions about teaching for a video. She also asked the librarians to participate. As she said, we are teachers too.

Yes, we are teachers too.

At ACRL (by the way, the proceedings are now available!), I attended an excellent talk by Laura Saunders about librarians as teachers. During the talk, Laura made the point that it is not particularly revolutionary to think of librarians as teachers. Indeed! But she did point out that librarians are in need of professional development as teachers.

So, in the name of deepening our understanding of ourselves as teachers, in the name of concretizing the librarian/teacher identity, in the name of hard questions....let me pose the question Cinse posed to me.

Why do you teach?

To tell you the truth, I really had to give this some thought. This is a different question than "why are you a librarian", which I can easily answer. But, why do I teach?

That's harder.

Why do I teach?
I teach because I am curious.
I teach because I want to learn and I believe I learn by asking and helping to answer questions.
I teach because I want to do something other, something more than make money.
I teach because I like to see synapses fire.
I teach because I want to share what I know.
I teach because I want to have an impact.
I teach because I believe I can have an impact.
I teach because it teaches me.
I teach because I am good at it.

As I read those over, two thoughts come to mind: first, it's not a terribly academic answer. Rather, it is a very personal, heartfelt one. Second, it is not so much about students as it is about me. Who I am. What I am. What I enjoy. What I want.

I want to teach because I enjoy it.

I think that is an important component to the push for teaching in libraries: do we do it because we must or are expected to, or, do we do it because we love it?

That gets to the question of who we are, how we see ourselves, and ultimately, why we are essential to the academic experience (eg. why we are valuable).

So, let me put it to you....why do you teach?


Rachel said...

Hi Sarah! Thanks for the powerful post :) I wrote a response, and have encouraged others to read and respond here as well. http://libandlearn.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-do-i-teach.html

The Sheck said...

Fabulous post. I especially appreciate your comment on learning requires us to be uncomfortable. Let's flip that on its head: how does the discomfort of teaching impact our desire to identify as teachers?