Marathon Week of Instruction

The last week and half has been in many ways for me a marathon of instruction. Last week on Wednesday I had my first solo teaching experience and while it went okay, I realized that I had some kinks to work out in my approach for teaching. I had expected some issues but being nervous was not one of them. I felt that I had gotten pretty comfortable being in front of the class but as soon as they entered into the room the nerves began. I had to remind myself that this was not a class of piranhas but a class of EN 102 students. They were not going to attack me! This thought helped and I quickly tried to gather my thoughts back in order. Besides the internal nervousness, I was also dealing with another issue that I had never taken into account. For my first solo class, it took place upstairs in the testing lab and that was a whole other set of problems. All of my classes up to that point had been in the instruction room on the first floor which is an open layout. The testing lab on the second floor has partitions around each desk. This made it hard for me to see the students and vice versa. It also made it hard for the class to see the powerpoint that I had prepared. These were considerations that I did not account for in my preparation. The class overall went well however and I gained some valuable experience in the process.

This week has truly been the marthon for me! I have prepped, taught, or helped to teach three different classes this week. My first class on Monday was a Session 2 and I feel like it went really well. I had a lot of anxiety for this class and it stemmed from my first solo teaching which was also a Session 2. As I did my planning though I kept in mind the issues that I had as I created my lesson plan. The first thing that I did is I created a much more detailed lesson plan for my second solo session than the first. With the first I kept the lesson plan kind of open like I had with my Session 1 classes but I realized that while that worked for Session 1 it could be hindering for Session 2 which is much more discussion based. Having a detailed lesson plan made all the difference for me in my second solo session. I did not strictly follow my lesson plan verbatum in the class but when and if I got lost in the discussion my lession plan was there to help guide me back. Having that type of lession plan helped to put my mind at ease!

My next session was on Wednesday with Melissa and in this one I focused primarily on giving one on one help to students. I helped one student in particular to nail down an idea for her topic as well as how to find the sources she would need. The encounter lasted about 20 minutes and once she had left I realized that I had just had a full blown reference encounter which amazed me. It was one of those things that I had learned about in my reference class and conducted in bits in pieces at my jobs within the library system but this was the first time that I had had a complete reference encounter from start to finish. It was one of the most refreshing moments in my academic career and reaffirmed to me that I had chosen the right career for me.

My third session is actually today! I have just completed the first of two 20 minute web evaluation sessions for an EN 101. I have to say that this session so far has gone the best! This was me completely by myself in the classroom and it was exciting. I loved how the class responded and got into the discussion. The experience that I have gained from all my previous sessions I feel like have culminated in this one session and also reaffirmed that I do love teaching! I will report in another blog how part 2 goes! Wish me luck!!

Grand Narratives and the Information Cycle in the Library Instruction Classroom: Reading 3

Grand Narratives and the Information Cycle in the Library Instruction Classroom by Sara Franks

The overall primary issue within Grand Narratives is the fact that despite whether or not the grand narrative is an effective teaching method it will be my job as a librarian to help patrons find their resources as well as how to critically think about the resources that they might find. It was the second part of this statement that caught most of my attention while reading the rest of the article. I am very interested in evaluation of sources

When I first began to read Grand Narratives, I realized that I was a product of both teaching styles and I found this to be somewhat enlightening. It shed light on some of the whys of my own teaching styles like “Why I am loathing to move away from strict lecture base classes sometimes?”  The answer that I came to as I reflected on this article was that as a student I had been exposed to both.  My educational background lies in history and many of my survey classes were based on the grand narratives model that Franks describes in her chapter. As I moved into my upper level history classes, I began to be exposed to the other side of Franks’ argument which looked at disciplines like history through individual or fragmented types of lens. Now that I am pursuing my MLIS degree, I have realized that I am now on the other side of the debate as a teacher who is trying to figure out the best way to help my patrons evaluate their chosen sources.

What Do First-Year Students Know About Information Research? And What Can We Teach Them: Reading 5

What Do First-Year Students Know About Information Research? And What Can We Teach Them? by Kate Manuel

I feel that every time I read a new article each week my thoughts and perceptions about teaching are always challenged. This leaves me in a place where I find myself reevaluating my beliefs. The article for this week is no different. The primary focus of the article looks at first year college students in basic level English classes and their information literacy level before and after library instruction. The study also focuses in on some of the perceptions that librarians commonly may hold about incoming new students and whether the perceptions that they hold are valid. The article made me realize that many of the perceptions that I have about students are many of the same described within the study.

I have always tried to keep in mind when I am preparing to teach to not assume any perceptions about the knowledge base of my class that is about to walk in. I have discovered that when I do that my classes tend to feel like (in my opinion) a lot of unnecessary explanation and hand holding. I feel that this creates an environment that is very difficult for students to learn in; however, this article made me realize that, like a lot librarians, I do believe in the assumption that my students are coming in with next to no knowledge about the library at all. This makes me think that I have to cover everything so that my students will have a thorough knowledge of the library. I realize in reality that it is next to impossible for me to cover every aspect of library instruction in detail in under an hour in a one shot session.

This study however has shown me that I should have more faith in my students’ base knowledge and not assume that almost all of my students are going to be information illiterate. This study just reinforced the idea that as a teacher I should assume nothing and instead try to gauge the experience of my class throughout the instruction session in order to best meet the students’ needs. I was also reminded that I need to be cognizant that my students are bringing their own experiences to the table and that this is how they are going to perceive, interrupt, and measure the information that I give out. To disregard such an important aspect would be, in my opinion, detrimental to not only the ability of the student to learn but also for me as a teacher in finding the best method in which to rely the needed information.

Becoming Critically Reflective: A Process of Learning and Change: Reading 4

Becoming Critically Reflective: A Process of Learning and Change

This article was a fascinating and thought provoking read. It primarily explored ways in which teachers could view their practice by standing outside of themselves and observing how they act in the classroom. The author discussed four “distinct lenses” in which teachers can use to reflect upon different areas of their practice. It was two of these lenses that really struck a chord with me.

The first of the two is the Our Autobiographies as Learners and Teachers. This particular lens really hit home for me personally because I have always believed that understanding your past or rather the experiences and memories that guide your decisions helps you grow as a person. I feel that self- reflection as a teacher is one of the most crucial steps in creating a welcoming environment for our students as well as helping establish good communication. From self-reflection, I believe as teachers we gain understanding as to why we prescribe to a particular method or tradition. Reading this article made me realize one of the reasons why I like to have lectures in my classes. Lectures were a primary mode of learning for me, but I also love good storytelling. I had fantastic teachers that could weave facts into a beautiful narrative and while I, as a teacher, may think that this is wonderful my future students may not. This is where the second lens comes in.

The second lens that inspired me is Our Students’ Eyes.  I felt that, after reading this article, this second lens was a good balancer for me in regards to Our Autobiographies. The article made a good point that this particular lens is somewhat cloistered in the fact that it is a personal and internal self-evaluation. Memories and experiences can become altered in our minds as we reflect back. I think that lecturing is a wonderful way to learn because it was so successful in my memory but from a student’s eyes it may be a very dull and painful way to learn.  I feel that getting to know my students and trying to understand their learning perceptive will only make me a better teacher because the environment that I am trying to create is a rewarding balance for them and me.

The Courage to Teach

This week’s reading came from chapter one in the book The Courage to Teach. The chapter was entitled “The Heart of the Teacher: Identity and Integrity in Teaching.” The chapter’s primary focus was on the fact that technique alone does not make a good teacher. Factors like integrity and the identity of the teacher help to promote good teachers. For the author those two factors appear to be some of the most important.

In reading this chapter, I found myself once again looking at myself internally. The chapter touched on one of my biggest fears about teaching: Teaching is all based on technique and if you do not have that foundation then you will be doomed in the classroom. This idea formed throughout my K-12 school years as I watched my former teachers use various techniques that they had learned to teach us the information we needed to know. Upon entering college, my eyes were opened when I meet many professors who had no formalized training in teaching but bravely went into the classroom each day. In those early days, as I sat in these classes my fears were reconfirmed that good teachers were only those who were trained in the techniques. Luckily, this perception changed as a moved into my upper level major classes. I began to see that years of experience, the level of comfort in the subject area, and a natural affinity to teaching also factored into the formula, along with technique, to make a good teacher. My fear however remained. I realized that I could attained the first two points, but the third was very elusive and something that was very personally internal.

Today I have been put in many situations where I have had to over come my fear of not being a good teacher. I have conducted classes where I have been very well paired, not prepared at all, and gone into classrooms on a wing and a prayer hoping for the best. In reading this chapter, I found myself confronting that old fear that I thought I had mastered. The premise of the argument I had encountered before listening to other teachers, however; the chapter had a profound effect on me especially the section that talked about learning to listen to ourselves internally. This was something that I had never truly done and I began to equate that with the realization that I did not trust myself in the classroom. I realized that I believed that without a formal technique to guide me that I would not be a good and effective teacher. This internal reflection also made me reevaluate my past teaching moments in a new light as well and I came to realize that what the author was arguing for was in many ways absolutely true. I began to remember classes where I was the student and the class was strictly driven by technique. I also remembered classes where all three aspects of technique, content, and the identity were balanced. These were my favorite and most effective classes.

From all this internal reflection, I came to the conclusion that I have many times before when I have thought about teaching: it is a balancing game! A balance of technique, knowledge, and personality rolled into a consumable form for students to digest makes, what I believe to be, one of the best teaching environments for students to learn.

Being the GTA in the Classroom

On September 12th, I had my first co-teaching session with Brett for one of my instruction classes and I must say that I loved it! I will be honest and say that I did not expect this to be my first reaction. I am the type of person to plan for the worst and hope for the best. This was my strategy for this first class. I mentally began to prepare for a whole class of scenarios that never came to life while hoping that this session was an effective learning time for the students. I had fully expected to be nervous in front of the class because I always get nervous for public speaking but for me, something strange occurred as I saw that students wonder into the classroom. I felt a sense of calm fall over me and as I got ready to start the class I felt a wave of excitement wash over as well. These two experiences have never really come hand in hand to me before and pushed many of my fears aside. This moment made my realize just how much I enjoy teaching! It also made my realize that I want to do my best always so this caused me reflect closely upon the instruction class.

I decided to look for one thing that I feel that I did really well on and one area that I need to improve upon. I felt that the area I was best for this first session was getting the classes attention right at the beginning of class and keeping it for the duration. To do this I used the whiteboard and used active learning by asking questions to get the class thinking and moving. I found this to be one of the best parts because of the interactivity as well as it was just fun.

It was also in this same area that I found where I need some improvement. As the students were defining their search terms on the board, their search terms where not necessarily matching up with some of the examples that I prepared and so I found myself guiding them in the direction that I thought we should go. I realized later that might not have been the best way and that I need to listen more and pay attention the mood of the class. I also need to not be afraid to move away from my script and improvise a little more because as I have learned each class has its own mind and personality and like anything that complex it can change on a moments notice. As the teacher, I have to roll with the punches! I fully expect that time and experience will help me in my endeavor.

How Do They Conduct Class

I have always considered interal and external reflection to be an important part of my growth and development as a person. The tools that prompt this self reflection have throughout my life have been quite varied so I should not have been surprised when this article became such a tool. The truth was, however, that surprise was mild in comparsion to the reflection that this article created within me. It was more on the level of eye-opening that had me reassessing some of my core ideas about teaching as well as reflecting back to my earlier academic influences.

My academic background has been heavily influenced by lecture based classes and in my heart of hearts I always believed that this would be the way I would conduct my own classroom. However, eight years have passed since I was a freshman and since that time some my ideas have evolved as I have grown as a student. I thought about ways I would change this or tweak that, but it was all centered around a lecture and discussion type format. Upon entering into the MLIS program, I realized that teaching pedogogy had shifted somewhat in a new direction with learning outcomes and some teachers calling for moving away from lecture based classes. This put me into somewhat of a tailspin about my original ideas on teaching. I was intrigued by the new shift and eager to learn more, but the more I learned the more muddled my internal ideas became. It was upon reading this article that a cord was struck with me and I felt that I began to gain some clarity.

The clarity I derived from this article came in two parts. The first part that I was focused upon was that teachers all had various teaching styles and one particular method was not better than another. This revelation was like light shining for me into a dark room. I knew on a certain level that this was true but when I looked back some of my best teachers almost all of them used the lecture based approach. Upon entering into my MLIS program, many of my professors had wonderful but varying teaching styles. This is where the waters got muddled in my mind because I was not sure which path I should follow. Reading this article however made my realize that I was not alone in this confusion.

The second part that I derived from the article was the concept of balance and this point right here cleaned up my internal traffic jam. The article gave examples of some of the best practices of teachers using various methods in a hybrid fashion. From this, I realized that I did not have to fore go my plans of using lecture but I also did not have to just be restricted by it either. The knowledge that I could have a hybrid teaching method not only thrilled me but made me realize once again that not everyone learns in the same way. Knowing now that when I go into a classroom I could possibly have a teaching method that could reach students on various levels is thrilling to my internal core.