Why do I teach?

I’m currently putting together my assessment portfolio for Writing for Academic Practice, and I found myself going off on an interesting tangent while explaining the personal relevance of the International Journal of Academic Development. I was considering why – having moved over from e-learning development to academic staff development nearly four years ago – it has taken so long for me to extricate myself from the learning technology community and its associated conferences, journals and special interest groups, and to get actively involved in the educational development community represented globally by the International Consortium of Educational Developers (ICED). One of the reasons, I think, is something to do with having a underdeveloped sense of identity as a teacher. I was – and still am – a lot more comfortable with the idea of myself as someone who knows a lot about technology enhanced learning, than as a teacher of teachers. It got me thinking about why I went into teaching.

My dad... the competition

My dad… the competition

In my case, ascribing my desire to teach to being raised by teachers would be highly questionable, as I have strived to find my own path in most other areas of my life. I have certainly been inspired and motivated by great teachers, and this is a common motivation for those who become teachers themselves. However, the competitiveness my parents nurtured in me is a tenacious beast, and I do wonder whether – in becoming an academic developer for higher education – I have subconsciously latched onto a profession that enables me to surpass their own academic achievements and status. My new line manager described me as ‘ambitious’ after we had only spoken for 30 minutes. I was initially surprised at this, and then not. Relatively speaking, I know I have high expectations of myself. Reading Heidegger and Illeris, among others, has prompted me to question where this drive comes from and whether it is a force for good.

Do my dubious initial motivations matter if I enjoy my job, find it rewarding, have a positive influence on the lives of the teachers I work with and – crucially – continually reflect on my own aims and motivations? I’ll continue to bear it in mind…

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