As I end my time with the GIS Department, it is important to look back on my experience. I began my internship with many expectations and assumptions concerning the profession, the university, myself, and students. These expectations were either met or discredited throughout my internship–either through observation, teaching, or self-assessment. I grew in many ways that both surprised and excited me. I absolutely feel I grew both personally and professionally. In very general ways, I grew in my willingness to collaborate with colleagues in producing lesson plans and generating ideas. I also learned to accept the general failings of my teaching and work to improve them rather than to immediately discredit myself as a teacher. Stephen Brookfield explores this idea in his chapter “A Process of Learning and Change” in Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher and attributes these failings as a result of social, economic, and political processes. In this way, the theoretical literature I read throughout he semester helped me better differentiate general failings and personal failings. As someone new to teaching in this type of environment, it was important for me to identify the ways I was struggling because of my assumptions and perspectives and the challenges I was facing that many other teachers face. I am always reminded of Parker Palmer’s chapter “The Heart of a Teacher” in her text The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life when thinking about personal and professional growth. Palmer’s chapter explores the more virtuous side of teaching and how the virtuous identity of a teacher shapes a classroom. For example, Palmer stresses the necessity of being present when teaching because it brings a sense of connectivity that cannot be found anywhere else. Remaining passionate and enthusiastic about the subject one is teaching is necessary and fundamental to good teaching. I learned this through teaching. Creating a welcoming and moving classroom is the product of a connected teacher. When I first began planning my lesson plans, I was obsessed with the idea of the “perfect worksheet” and the “perfect lesson plan.” I quickly learned that the teacher is the person who will make a class engaging and insightful—not the worksheet or lesson plan. These can certainly be necessary tools for facilitating a great class, but great teaching is a product of the teacher’s ability to navigate the learning environment and situation.
Personally, I grew into the identity of a teacher. Formerly at my undergraduate university I assisted the instructional librarians with their classes; however, I never thought of it as teaching. In a sense, I thought of the class as the librarians “showing” the students general library-based instruction. I quickly learned that instructional librarianship is teaching and deserves to be recognized and associated with that word. Stephen Brookfield’s chapter in Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher “A Process of Learning and Change” discusses the idea of self-assessment and doing so through several reflective lenses. I think what really allowed me to grow into the identity of a teacher is the constant self-assessment I was doing throughout the semester through these various lenses. Brookfield identifies the four lenses as the teacher’s autobiographical perspective, the student’s perspective, the colleague’s perspective, and the discipline’s theoretical literature perspective and insight. Constantly assessing myself through these lenses allowed me to see the assumptions I was making of students and, in the context of my identity as a teacher, the assumptions I was making of myself. For instance, I first approached my lesson plans by negotiating myself out of ideas that I did not believe were “the librarian’s job” to teach about. Instead, I presented lesson plans and worksheets that fit the comfort level of my assumption about myself and the profession. I was quickly urged by Sara and others around me to explore deeper ideas and not let the constraints of what I was feeling to dictate what I was teaching. This put me into the mindset to question myself: Why am I teaching like this? Eventually through constant self-assessment—whether through the act of teaching, blogging, journaling, or discussing—I grew to accept the title of a teacher. I want to continue to challenge myself in this title by pushing myself to question what is expected of a library instructor in terms of information literacy. For instance, questioning what teaching information literacy demands from the library instructor. I also want to challenge myself to teach more responsively through constant analysis by myself, colleagues, students, and pedagogical literature. Remaining active in self-assessment is an area I want to continue to prioritize. Furthermore, I want to deliberately find books, perspectives, conversations, and practices that challenge my comfort towards teaching and allow me to identify my assumptions and question my expectations.