Forgot to mention that i had also sat in on part of a session that Melissa Fortson Green conducted. She tackled the new Facebook tool, Graph Chart, just one day after it had made news in that all sorts of unintended consequences were possible. That is, privacy settings or no privacy settings, Graph Chart can apparently pull up some “interesting” results, and Ms. Green dove right in and got the class going and interested by using the newest and greatest buzz. My bravery is not equal, I am just sayin.
This week I got to give a tour of Gorgas Library to a group visiting campus, called College for Every Student. I really enjoyed this group. It was a large group, with students from a variety of backgrounds. It was really exciting for me to share the library with this group of students who are about to enter their college years and show them what a college library has to offer, no matter where they end up going to college. I started the tour with them at the Sanford Media Center, which as usual was a big hit. They were interested in seeing the recording studio, but it was unfortunately being used at the time. However, they got the experience of what all the SMC has to offer. We then visited the circulation desk, and they really liked how you can check out laptops to use. Next we visited the third floor. In the art history section I explained how call numbers work and then we did a call number activity where the students worked in pairs to find the book with the call number that I gave them. Once they had all found their books, we discussed the experience as a group with each pair sharing the title and author of the book they found followed by a discussion of the experience as a whole. We discussed any challenges they faced finding the books, or if they thought overall it was a pretty easy task. I had a really smart group, so they found their books easily! We then visited the Williams Collection, which was also a popular stop on the tour. They really enjoyed the paintings in the collection. We then went down to the lower level of the library. I told them the story of how the basement is supposedly haunted, and they all found it really exciting. We talked about favorite scary movies and most of the girls were like me and didn’t have a favorite movie because they didn’t like being scared! AFter that we toured the first floor and talked about all the services provided on that floor. We visited the information desk, the printing station, the music library, as well as the coffee shop Java City. They also loved the cell phone charging station there on the first floor. As they were leaving, the students even made a point to thank us for showing them the library. Overall, it was a really great group and I hope the students got as much out of it as I did!
So, this is my first blog entry for my new instruction internship with Gorgas Information Services! Is there a word that encompasses both a sense of overwhelming terror AND mounting excitement? Hysterical, I think would be the word, but in a totally good way. I’ve met with my internship coordinator, Sara Whitver, and I’ve mapped out my semester so as to keep myself on track with all my “duties” as a newly minted instruction intern. Lesson plans, tutorials and instruction sessions, OH MY! And while I’m a little bit overwhelmed (make that “quite”) I have found that the assigned readings given to us by Sara have been extraordinarily comforting in their own way. For example, our reading this week, “How Do They Conduct Class?” made sure to note that good teachers/lecturers/instructors are not made by their ability to speak publicly (something I struggle with) but by their shared concern for the learner. “Their focus is on the nature and processes of learning rather than on the performance of the instructor” (134). So, while I may be nervous as can be, I know that if I make the focus of my internship the potential “learner” and treat my planning processes with care, then I should be prepared enough to pass on a rewarding instruction experience. (Or so I tell myself.)
Last week, we read and discussed “Researched Writing” by Rebecca Moore Howard and Sandra Jamieson. This article discussed how the research paper may no longer be the best method to teach research skills. Instead, research projects or portfolio could be used in writing classes to teach the skills on a step-by-step basis. As I read this, I was reminded how integral one-on-one instruction can be especially when teaching material as complicated and individualized as research. I then started to wonder if Universities with MLIS programs could work to engage their graduate students as “research mentors” for entry level composition classes. These “mentors” could then be available to meet with students on a one-on-one basis and walk them through the research process based on the professor’s instruction. While reference librarians can fill this role, freshmen seem hesitant to engage with librarians. The graduate student may be viewed more as a peer as well reducing the intimidation. The mentor could lead the student through early stages of research based on the professor’s assignments then refer the student to reference librarians for finding their own sources and higher level research projects.
This week I read “Standards and Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators: A Practical Guide.” What struck me about this reading was the common themes that keep popping up in this reading: “collaborating,” “mentoring,” “improving,” “sharing,” and so forth. These standards clearly emphasize instruction librarians’ roles as supporters of one another. These standards emphasize instruction coordinators’ roles as mentors, as supporters of those librarians below them. These standards are really encouraging, and it’s really great to see how they are put into place in our environment. As members of the Jedi Council, we are there each week to discuss our struggles, our successes, and how we might improve upon our teaching. Brett and Sarah both do a wonderful job of motivating and encouraging us, and we, as interns and assistants, have the benefit of seeing how good instruction coordinators and librarians function.
As I began to read the Brookfield chapter, I will admit that I was extremely skeptical of the article. I felt the language to be very pompous, and failed to see how this would be of any use to me. I felt a very strong disconnect from the writing, and that the author and I felt extremely differently about teaching and that there was no chance we could land on the same page. I felt that all of what he was discussing was great for an educational scholar who has chances to reflect on all of this, but as someone was has been in an elementary school classroom, there is hardly any time for reflection on this level.
I found myself to be quite surprised when the chapter then discussed this exact belief and how it is difficult to get teachers to read educational literature. The review of the teacher he quoted still rings true to me “their research did not speak the truth to me.” I absolutely agree with the authors statement that the language used is usually formal and academic as a means to impress the members of academia rather than those who could use the research. I was happy to see this discussion being had, but I felt that he discussed it for a second before falling back on uppity vocabulary and creating that disconnect again. I still feel that a lot of what he was discussing is in the abstract and theoretical and doesn’t do a much for teachers in their day to day lives.
As I begin to think more about library instruction and the role of an instructor in the classroom, I find that Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed to be an excellent guide into how I consider the dynamic between students and myself as an instructor. In Chapter 4 specifically, Freire discusses how cultural invasion functions as a type of violence between the individual possessing power within a given dynamic and the individuals (in this case, students) who are expected to function within that dynamic while lacking the same amount of agency. While Freire doesn’t seem to be suggesting that pedagogy should abolish the student-teacher dynamic, he does suggest that teachers should prioritize a cooperation within the classroom between students and teachers. The responsibility for this kind of cooperation and removing the elements of cultural invasion is placed entirely on the teacher in this instance. Freire’s words have made me consider how I myself have prioritized the view of myself as a teacher as a kind of provider of information over what should be a prioritization of liberating my students from the subjugation that much of the academic system is constructed around. The view of students as blank slates needing to be “written” upon by proper teaching is a toxic one which does not acknowledge the value that students bring with them to the classroom. As a library instructor specifically, I want to become more focused on how I approach my students and how I can seek to raise up their own thoughts through involvement in the subject matter while also being careful not to impose myself and my own cultural biases or prejudices onto the students. I am further interested in finding more information on how to equitably moderate the classroom with a Freireian approach to classroom management, especially for classes where the culture and individual personalities and cultures are largely unknown to me.
The section that jumped out at me the most was the section on “Teaching As Design.” I liked the idea presented, which is that teachers should become designers of learning experiences. To quote the article, “Teaching-as-design” is focused on the design of tasks, situated activities, and learning outcomes.” Learning is more than just lectures and in class discussion. Thinking of design as a learning experience rather than just preparing a lesson plan opens up a whole new world of creativity and opportunity in the classroom. Just thinking about different classes I’ve taken I appreciated when teachers broke up material into different sections where part of class was a hands on assignment, then there might be lecture, later there could be group discussion, or maybe some kind of interactive learning tool. Sitting in a classroom designed to help me engage not only with the material but with the people around me in more than just formal discussion, is much more stimulating and interesting.
Going off of this, one theme of the article that I liked was the idea of what teachers can do to support learning. What can teachers do not only to help students learn but also to drive and motivate them? Every student has their own learning process. Not everyone thrives in a classroom that’s completely lecture while others struggle in classes aimed solely at in class discussion. The article points out the idea of looking at students as individual learners rather than just an entire class. This can help teachers identify students level of understanding as well as encounter their limitations. Tying this back to my first point, if teachers focus on individual students by giving them multiple ways to learn and grow in the classroom, students are more likely to feel comfortable and engaged with the material they’re learning.
Overall, I really liked this article, because while this idea of certain people not being represented in literature is something I have thought about before, I had not thought of it in the same framework presented by Franks. As Franks points out in her article, there are grand narratives being given as representative of all human experience. However, if we begin asking ourselves whose voices are being represented in these narratives, it is easy to see that these grand narratives do not apply to everyone and that some individuals are not being included in the story. Having narratives that assert only one authority or only have one overarching voice are cause for concern. What gets left out of the literature when this happens is an important point of discussion not only to search for unanswered questions but also to help include minor payers that might not be fully represented. I liked how, despite the problems with these grand narratives, Franks says it should not discourage students doing research on a topic that includes this. Instead, they should see it as an opportunity to criticize the work or to create a new discussion about it.
Teaching is an entirely new experience for me. Yes, I’ve done the occasional presentation, but public speaking has never been something I am comfortable with. However, this is quickly changing, with each time that I teach or co-teach I am becoming more confident with my abilities to lead an instruction session. I feel that I learn something each time I teach. As my confidence has grown I am able to look at the wider picture and really focus on the material in an in-depth manner. However, there are still doubts that pop up. Am I covering the material appropriately? Do the students have a clear understanding of the material? Are they focused and paying attention? Am I fulfilling the expectations of the professor? Is the information I am conveying helpful? So with every step forward I have taken as an instructor, I feel that I have many more to go.