Why I teach.

This entry is part 24 of 48 in the series Teaching Transparently


My job is a language center director first and foremost, but the opportunity to teach language classes gives me a perspective on teaching and learning that I would not get by just running the CILC. It also helps me do the job better.

Over my (yikes) 11 years in this position, I have discovered that it is really quite easy, seductively so, to be completely oblivious to the ebb and the flow of the classroom rhythms when you are a staff member. Within a college or university all of the employees follow the same academic calendar, but within that one calendar are any number of sub-calendars that co-relate to our roles within the Academy: students, faculty, staff, administrators…we all go about our business with different deadlines, mandates, priorities, and intended outcomes. In our respective (dare I say it) caste-based jobs we co-exist and we co-mingle, our paths intersect occasionally, but generally we are traveling on parallel, non-intersecting routes. And yes, I have written about this before.

Teaching, for me, in this context, is a way to make a conscious intersection between what I am paid to do and what I don’t usually get to see but have to support.

In a perfect world this would means there is all sorts of bliss and harmony and such. Well, lately it has been far from perfect.

There are days, like last Friday, when I wondered why I agreed to take this on. There are many days when I have felt that I have no energy left to juggle any more balls in the air and have almost cancelled class out of mere mercy for my students. There are days when the demands of my “real” job make it so I don’t teach well, that’s for sure.

Teaching a consistently good, balanced, interesting, engaging and productive class is wicked hard work. It looks easy. It ain’t. And I am reminded of that every single day. Especially when I fail at it. I am also constantly reminded how much of a distraction and a disruption technology can be in some circumstances. Especially when it fails, as it seems to do on more and more occasions. I become my own worst example. And yes, it stings.

Failure, even the lukewarm “Well that didn’t go as we had expected it to now did it?” failure, is painful when you care about what you do in the classroom. I teach because I care, I teach because I still believe that what we do in the classroom is important and every now and again life-changing, I teach because by doing so it pushes me out of my comfortable little techno-centric world where I can make technology bend to my wishes (usually) into the broad screaming daylight of the classroom where much less is certain and secure.

We need to make ourselves travel on a different set of tracks every now and again, even if only for a short trips. Everyone in Academia needs to make the effort to see something outside of his/her area of influence, comfort zone.

Seeing things from a variety of angles is what we ask our students to do, so why shouldn’t we find ways to practice this idea and model that for them?

So yeah, that’s why I teach.

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Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!


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