Kayla and I are teaching 2 EN101 classes this Friday, together but unsupervised by those in the know. Creating a lesson plan can be challenging – creating a lesson plan WITH someone can bring out some of my worst control-freak tendencies. I’m working on it (and a shoutout to Kayla for being the perfect partner – laid back in all of the ways I am not). I am excited to get started and to be responsible for something more than a small blob of the greater scheme. 101 is very different from 102 and, in my opinion, more easily lends itself to fun lesson plans. I’m looking forward to seeing how we are received.
The biggest stand out moment from this week was in the 102 class I observed yesterday. Sara probably mentioned the same thing (watching tutorials before the next session) 6 times in rapid succession, and even made it clear that it was important by saying students should make a note of it, but her voice fell on some deaf ears. I overheard the guy behind me asking his classmate what she had said as he packed up to leave. I watched another guy checking his phone every minute or so (literally every minute or so, I timed him for a while), despite that portion of the class being interactive. I think student (in)attention just really needs to be taken in stride. Many students were actively participating and seemed to be enjoying the discussion, and I think Sara’s plan of attack in pulling students in to the discussion was spot-on, but there were some who refused to participate. No worries – you have to force some level of participation but you don’t have to focus on those who refuse to involve themselves.
As for other revelations this week – my demonstration of narrowing a topic was miserable. The feedback I got was identical to the feedback I have received and given to myself my entire life – proceed with more confidence, commit more fully, and don’t appear disinterested in what I am doing. I’ve been thinking about influential it is for an instructor to appear ambivalent, how that not only establishes classroom tone but in large part determines how important students think the information is. The last impression I’d like to leave students with is that of the library as unimportant. I think my biggest challenge will be in conveying my enthusiasm for library science and the pleasure of a search well done.
Last week marked my first foray into information literacy instruction. I took over the Scout portion of one of the EN102 classes. Not so bad, but I was again amazed at how much information Karlie can pack in there and how seamlessly she moves from one subject to another. I am thankful we are preparing one topic at a time, but am wondering how all of it will be melded together for an entire class. I enjoyed the experience, though, ESPECIALLY after the lecture was finished and we got to talk one-on-one with students. There are some impressive kids out there…you know, with like, deep thoughts and stuff. It’s odd to say, but one of the things I will need to get past as I’m instructing is feeling like I am “one of them”. I still feel like I belong in the same age group with all of these students who are, quite literally, less than half my age. It changes the dynamic when I pull myself out of that mindset and force myself to recognize adulthood.
This week’s assignment: narrowing a research topic. This presentation has been hard for me to pull apart from one centered on narrowing search terms (after a topic is chosen). There is so much overlap when researching, and again it’s hard to place the process into a stepwise format. Something to start thinking about: a logical progression of instruction that both shows how circular research can be and also gives students a chance to wrap their minds around each aspect.
For week three, I co-taught for the first time. I was pretty nervous, though not nearly as nervous as I thought I would be. The night before, I observed Karlie teaching a different section, and we met afterwards to discuss our lesson plan. We decided that I would start by explaining Boolean operators and then do a Scout tutorial using the section theme. I tend to get extremely nervous the first time I do something, but it went much better than I anticipated. The things I’ll fix for next time are pretty minor overall. I want to make sure I don’t talk too quickly or slowly. When explaining Scout, I’d like to explain things in a slightly different order next time, one that I feel makes more sense. I think that the biggest achievement of this week was diving into teaching, and gaining confidence. Flashing back to week one, Sara’s advice to focus on the concept (searching/narrowing) rather than the tool (Scout) was spot-on. I really feel that using that approach is what eliminated a lot of nerves.
For week two, I had the opportunity to observe three different instructors as they taught EN102/103 session ones. Immediately, I made the decision that I would attend each and every session I could, even as I get well into co-teaching and solo teaching myself. I expected that I would be more nervous, seeing what I would soon be facing myself, but I actually felt much better after each session I observed. Two major things stood out to me. Firstly, I was impressed with how much innovation and individuality can be added into each session. Each of the three instructors had very different approaches, exercises and style, but the students all came out of the sessions understanding the same concepts. Secondly, it was a major relief to see that the anxieties of the instructor weren’t noticeable to me, much less to the EN102/103 students. When they would say to me afterwards “I didn’t love this part”, “I would switch it to this thing”, etc., I was surprised, because the class had been seamless from my perspective.
For our first meeting, we each had to prepare a 5 minute demo on how to search Scout. Predictably, being the first week, things did not go nearly as smoothly as I would have preferred. However, it ended up being extremely educational because I learned a lot of important tips that will serve me as an instructional librarian. First of all, my biggest problem was that I had prepared an exact search pattern. When the results didn’t pull up exactly how I anticipated, I panicked. As Sara pointed out to me though, it was a very important lesson in making sure that I understand the concepts and am flexible instead of sticking so closely to a particular plan. Plans often fall apart, especially plans depending on an ever-changing resource like Scout. The other lesson I learned was a bit more abstract. I had been so focused on demoing a tutorial for Scout that I kept my vision narrow. In reality, I should have had the focus be on searching as a concept with Scout as the tool.
This Wednesday I had my first co teaching experience. It went really well and I think I did a good job. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be once I actually got in there, but was more stressed the whole day leading up to it. As I co teach and teach on my own more and more I am hoping that the daylong stress out will shrink away. I definitely think that what helped me be less nervous about the actual presentation was the preparation I put in beforehand. I was demoing Scout and I knew exactly where I was going to go with it and why and what I was going to show at each stop. I know some people wing their searches and I would like to get their eventually, but I am not there yet. I think that they are able to do that because they have nailed down what they are looking for and what they want to explain to the class and I think for now incorporating that into my planning is helping me get there. The big struggle for me that I need to work on is remaining focused and teaching when some of the students are talking to each other. That tends to be a big distraction for me and throws me off, but I’m not sure what to do about it besides work on that within myself. It’s not like I can “discipline” someone else’s class. Overall it was a really great experience and I feel better now that I know I won’t choke in front of a group.
This week I started my observations. I have been in classes receiving this kind of instruction before, but being apart, an observer, was very interesting and helpful. I found myself watching the students as much as the instructors and that turned out to be just as informative. The real struggle that I am seeing is the fact that the instructors only want to help the students get the concepts, but it’s hard to determine if they are or not. I suppose this is a struggle for all forms of teaching. Do you focus on trust? Do you trust that you have prepared this material in a way that they can understand, and trust that they are focusing and learning? Or do you put a lot of energy into engaging them to be vocal, constantly gauging whether or not they are understanding?
The other thing that really caused me to think this week was the reading. This book chapter talked a lot about how the personal things in the instructor’s life actually have a huge impact on the student’s experience. I found it to be both helpful and unhelpful. It was expressing how having confidence in yourself and inner peace would cause your teaching to improve. Well, that is great, but everyone is trying to achieve those things anyway, having one more reason why they are good things isn’t actually going to help someone achieve them. However, having that extra motivation to be sure of yourself while in front of a crowd can be powerful, and having something tell you that you have a teaching style that is all your own, and trying to copy someone else’s is just not going to work for you was very helpful too.
This week I prepared a five minute demo of Scout. This was my first experience taking my knowledge of searching and turning it into a presentation to teach others those same tools. I think it was a great way to start off the semester. The way in which I succeeded the most was in carrying out my plan. When I was presenting I feel that I exude confidence in what I was saying and like a professional, not just someone giving a presentation in class. The actual preparation and knowing what and how to show students needed some work. I received comments about being aware of not showing them some of the more advanced skill sets that I have learned quite yet for fear of confusing people and throwing them off, which is advice I completely understand and will try to keep in mind for the future. I also need to focus on helpful aspects of what I am showing them besides just searching methods, although that is still the priority. I definitely have a long way to go, but I did not start out as the worst possible version of myself either. Not starting at the very bottom is a great confidence booster to push me off into the rest of the semester.
This week’s assignment was to develop a brief demonstration on keyword generation. Again, I was struck with how difficult it is to prepare even these small pieces of an instruction session. I’m glad we are doing it in small chunks so we can focus on one thing at a time. Last week’s SCOUT presentation was underwhelming and unfocused – I definitely hope to have it refined tomorrow when I coteach with Karlie (and nervously take over the SCOUT portion). Getting feedback and seeing other intern’s demonstrations was helpful. I can definitely say that even though we should be prepared to complete a search on any topic, and that “failures” in the search are just as important as learning tools as successes, I will want to have a familiar path to follow when teaching for the first time. I’m not prepared to wing it yet. Preparing today’s demonstration took a long (long!) time; I tested MULTIPLE topics to use as an example in finding broader/narrower search terms. One thing I got hung up on, and still get caught on, is inserting related terms in to the process. I tend to be a purist – if I am looking for a narrower search term for “dog”, it rattles me to apply something like “leash”…that isn’t a narrower term for dog! So I spent some time trying to redefine what “narrower term” and “broader term” could mean. Especially in a way to convey to students that if a term may be relevant to their search they should grab it and use it…without worrying about where it falls in the hierarchy. Feedback helped to show that my approach is a little too rigid and that a need to find a way to satisfy my need to categorize while making students recognize the overall concept of alternate/narrower/broader terms.
Our reading this week has made me nostalgic for the great teachers I’ve had in the past. I love this quote: “When my teaching is authorized by the teacher within me, I need neither weapons nor armor to teach”. Perfect. You need subject familiarity, and a wide comfort zone, and acceptance of the possibility that you may fail, but it should never be seen as a battle or something to “win” when you are teaching. Something to keep in mind…
Looking through my notes from last week, the first real week of the internship, a few key concepts are emerging. One, I’m not a laid back person, and was overwhelmed with not understanding the ins and outs of the internship. Two, it all settled down, just as Sara said it would. Having schedules ironed out and expectations verified allowed a huge sigh of relief.
But then…on to the things I actually should be concerned with. Our first demonstrations were 5 minute introductions to SCOUT, and it turns out that explaining SCOUT can be difficult. Not only because the search isn’t always intuitive, but because it is hard to turn a thought process into coherent instruction. And even harder to get across all of the inner dialogue that you are typically able to ignore. An unexpected search return may usually lead to a quick scroll through the mental rolodex to find new terms or improved search strategies, but we’re usually only barely cognizant of having gone through that process. Explaining or teaching that process seems..daunting.
My favorite quote from last week’s reading is “The most effective teachers use class time to help students think about information and ideas the way scholars in the discipline do”. What a perfect way to look at teaching, but what a difficult task. In our case I feel that, at least on some level, we are the scholars in the discipline, trying to teach others how we think about searching. Which means I need to figure out how _I_ think about searching.