Preparing the first “solo” session

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.

Segmenting the research process

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.

On to this week…

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…

Week One of my Information Instruction Internship

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.