Once more unto the breach, dear friends. (1 of 3)

Credit to the Great Willy Shakespeare who never could spell his own name right/the same from play to play for the title. (Henry V)

Last week was the longest week of my graduate school career. Here, in my instructional internship, is where I shall begin. I will probably post something I wrote about a while ago about another one of the weeks of this internship, but for now I’ll settle with only looking a week into the past. This post will be dedicated to all the awesome instructors I’ve observed (looking at you Sara, Karlie, Kayla, Erica, Alex, and James).

I feel like I learn as much, if not more, by watching these ladies and gents teach. They all have different approaches when it comes to applying the learning objectives, even if they are using the same activities. They also have different ways to create rapport between themselves and the students as well as dissuade them from creating too many distractions from the actual material. They are constantly updating sources and creating new ways of thinking about the learning objectives. They take what they’ve observed work in the classroom and work to perfect the material by asking increasing amounts of questions.

I watched 6 EN102 Session 2’s last week. I feel like I have been completely immersed in learning objectives and active learning activities since the beginning of observing for Sara’s research study. I’m incredibly grateful to that study, because it has given me the time to really look at the various pedagogical distinctions between the instructors and how the students react to those different methods.

Week 5: EN 102

Today was my first day to co-teach an EN 102 class.  Overall, I think it went really well.  Alex was the main instructor, and I assisted by executing my keyword “active learning” activity that I demoed in our weekly meeting last week.*  While the application of the activity in a real classroom wasn’t perfect, the instructor seemed to like it, and even complimented me on it at the end of class. So, yay.

Which brings me to our reading last week, “Becoming Critically Reflective: The Process of Learning and Change.”  The article’s main focus was to illustrate how our assumptions about the way we teach and the ways we present can be changed by viewing our performance through different lenses.  So, while it is certainly healthy to be self-reflective in our vocation, sometimes it is important to get the outside opinions of others, whether it is our peers, our students, or even the theoretical literature surrounding our profession.  As I’ve mentioned before, I often get nervous speaking in front of people, so getting to demo my methods in front of my fellow “padawans” each week is super duper helpful.  For example, getting that little bit of encouragement from my peers and mentors last week really and truly gave me the confidence to co-teach the class today.  Feedback from others is crucial to my success in this internship, as it gives me confidence in what I’m doing and helps me see beyond my nervous disposition.  So, keep the criticisms/feedback/praise coming, and I’ll try to do the same for you!

*I added a worksheet component (that used word bubbles) to help guide them along.


Week 4: SLIS Survivor

This week all the interns joined Brett for our first co-teaching experience (well, except for Robert…he’s seasoned).  We all met in the Osburn Room to give library tours and play a game of Library Survivor (LS) with SLIS’s LS507 class.  We had previously worked with Brett to develop a version of LS that would appeal to SLIS students, and I think it turned out nicely.  I was lucky enough to get a combination of SLISers in my tour group.  All of them were first semester students, but each student was familiar with the library in different ways.  Tours, I think, are perfect for me.  When I’m moving, my nerves aren’t really an issue.  I also liked dealing with the students in a small group.  I felt like I got to “know” them a little bit on the tour, so by the time we came back to the classroom to go over SCOUT I was as cool and a cucumber.  I think I’m going to really enjoy doing these BCE/Compass classes in the next couple of weeks, which follow the same format.  Now for first year writing…


Week 3: Observation

This week was my first week observing.*  Since the schedule this semester is awkwardly mapped, I was unable to view a first year writing course.  However, I did get to view Mark teach a Comm 123 course and Brett teach a Compass course, the latter of which I helped out with a bit.

The first class I observed was Mark’s Comm 123 session.  Comm 123 is a public speaking course required of most majors within the communication’s school.  Of all the things worth mentioning about Mark’s class, I think the most interesting was how he began.  Mark opened the class with two articles about texting and driving, one of which was from a scholarly journal and the other from a popular news source.  Mark had the students read the abstracts aloud and voice their opinions as to why each was labeled the way they were.  (For example, the students noted that the scholarly article was written with very technical language, while the popular article was written for an audience with a lower reading level.)  After dissecting the two pieces, Mark then asked the students which one would be a better source for their first speech topic.  Most of the students, as expected, answered with the scholarly journal.  Then Mark explained that, yes, while that does seem like the logical answer, for a public speaking class a scholarly journal is not necessarily appropriate, depending on the audience and topic.  I liked this for several reasons:

  • It broke down resource stereotypes, such as the assumption that all scholarly journals are “good” and all popular publications are “bad.”
  • It helped the students think critically about library resources.
  • It was interactive.  Student’s led the conversation while Mark steered them in right direction.  This is much more preferable to me than lecturing.

The second class I observed last week was Brett’s Compass class.  I feel like Brett was made for these.  He is so personable, and I have a lot to learn from his enthusiasm for the library and the students.  Observing him give a library tour was particularly helpful, as I was tasked with giving a library tour this past week to some SLIS students (more on that to come later).  In addition, his library survivor game is top notch.  The students loved it, and even got mildly competitive with it, which is great if you believe all the “game theory” literature.

Overall, things last week went well.  My first round of real, hardcore co-teaching comes next week, and I feel like observing these librarians helped ease my nerves a bit.  This, much to my chagrin, just might be enjoyable after all. 🙂


*Sorry about being a little late posting this to the blog

Don’t Panic, It’s Just Information Literacy!

I spent my morning on Monday co-teaching two EN102 classes with Sara Whitver; both classes had the same English instructor and both chose the same topic (It’s funny how much college students like football). These sessions were an opportunity for me to understand two things about what my future as an instructor can look like in time. The first is that I hope that sooner or later these instruction butterflies die down and let me get on with my sessions. Secondly, I realized that with time and experience I can make a better connection to the students. I learned this fact through the third co-teaching session suddenly seeming easier than the second and the first, and because of Sara’s confidence with the group. My first session included a lesson I was glad I learned early, which is always be more than prepared, because I definitely was not. All in all, I feel that repetition (and the guidance of Sara) will keep me on my feet, even when I’m scared out of my wits.

(P.S. Sara, you totally are a super-special snowflake)

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!!

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.

Dry Runs

Today, Louise, Alex and Karlie were able to do their first dry run of an instruction session during our training meeting. Brett and I asked them to conduct a 10 minute module, teaching some small aspect of Scout (The University of Alabama’s EDS). The purpose of this exercise was to discover things about themselves when they try to explain something to an audience. Each did a fantastic job.

I have issued a challenge to them to do some search analysis using Scout, so that they have a better practical understanding of how it works, and cautioned them about drawing focus during their sessions from their key points by trying to explain jargon and technicalities in too much detail. And we all have to continue to find a balance between being a fallible human who makes mistakes and drawing too much critical attention to one’s self at the cost of distracting from our message.

Time is something that I have been struggling with in the past week or so. I never have enough time to cover everything I plan. This semester, I have been focusing on reducing the quantity of my session content in order to more deeply address the strategy of choosing search terms and developing search strings, and I find that the deeper I go, the less time I have. Twice so far this semester, I have not left enough time to complete the exercise that I planned to do with my students. For my sessions next week, it’s my goal to pace myself better, and to recognize if I am spending too much time on one thing. If I feel I am spending the correct amount of time on each component during my sessions, perhaps I am still trying to accomplish too much and I need to cut something out! In this process I find both frustration and motivation. I want my freshmen to be equipped with adequate skills for finding the best sources for their research when they leave my classroom, but if I try to teach them too much I risk over-saturation.

Next week we are going to repeat our dry runs, and I think we will perhaps implement some peer review into it. The following week, we are going to develop active learning components for our classes. I look forward to seeing these three budding instructors grow more confident and find their voice through these exercises. Great job, everyone!