Purpose of Teaching

Happy New (Academic) Year

The start of the academic year is a different type of New Year’s because it is a time of resolutions. Students who didn’t live up to their expectations last academic year resolve to do better. Students new to college, resolve to do their best. And us teachers, we often hope that a new assignment, or a new reading, may spark excitement or finally drive home a point we’ve not been able to make effectively.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, it reminds us how important education is. Students are looking for purpose, and we are hoping that they find it. Second, it also helps build empathy. I’ve never met a student who didn’t want to do well, especially at the start of the semester. Though resolutions are often hard to keep, it is always helpful to remember that the drive to do well exists in every student. The trick is inspiration and support. As our mission statement makes very clear, “The mission of St. Lawrence University is to provide an inspiring and demanding undergraduate education in the liberal arts…” 

As we approach this academic year, how might we resolve to provide this inspiring education? How might we build supports that help students meet the demands of a rigorous liberal education, especially if they struggled in previous years and are losing heart and confidence? As we plan our courses, how can we make it more likely that students experience the success they resolve to strive for?