Monday, April 03, 2006

While waiting to teach a class

It is one of those long days for the Instruction Librarian. I taught five classes so far, and as I am posting this, I have one more today. I don't that kind of marathon very often, and it is the type of thing that makes some of my colleagues cringe, or at least wonder if I lost my sanity. Odds are good that if my director reads this, she may mention something to my supervisor, who will then come and check up on me. I know they do it because they care. So, here is my reassurance: I am ok, and I only do it once in a rare while. I do try to let instructors with multiple sections on a day to bring their classes at once, and I often try to teach the sessions myself for consistency. By the way, did I mention that a bit of insanity helps in doing this? Ok, just a little. So, I fire up Pandora, and I figure I may as well use a bit of this quiet time.

The m0rning classes were introductory communication classes. I have at least two instructors that bring their students in around this time of the semester. It is not a complicated lesson plan: they are giving informative or persuasive speeches, and they need to find some good sources of information. What this means is that the professor wants them to take advantage of some of the library databases and resources. Since the topics vary, I go with general resources like Academic Search Premier and Lexis-Nexis Academic. I also throw in some "added value" in the form of showing them how to find the Statistical Abstract of the United States, and I also show them the Librarian's Internet Index. The Statistical Abstract I like in order to give them a good source for statistics. I always sort of joke with the students that it is "the tool you use when you want to impress your teacher with your knowledge of statistics." As for LII, well, as long as it is up, I will keep advertising it to students. It's a great resource.

So, this morning I had one instructor who had four sessions back to back. I remember that kind of stunt in my public school days. Even when I taught college, my classes were a little more spaced out; I think three in a row was my record, but I also did a lot of night classes back then. Then I had one instructor who had one section today; she is bringing two more sections: one tomorrow, one on Wednesday. The very early classes were kind of sleepy, so it was a bit hard to wake them up. Doing sessions like this allows you to see how students wake themselves up as time passes. By the 10:00am session, they were fairly awake and cooperative. Though I have a decent lesson plan, I tend to deviate. One of my favorite things to do as of late is to just ask if a student has a topic, and I will be happy to start their research for them. That often sparks their attention, and the lucky winners are appreciative. I usually run a couple of searches. It is a kind of daring but fun thing to do. I know librarians do searches beforehand and have them listed. I do some of that, but never use them since I like the thrill of seeing what a student throws at me. Do I sometimes end up with a small search, or worse, no results? Sure, and it makes for a teachable moment about retooling a search and thinking a bit creatively. Much of this is about embracing the chaos. The fifth class went well also. That one had a slightly different plan as the instructor wanted some information on how to evaluate websites, which gave me a chance to use a hoax site to illustrate the "dangers" (ooh aah) of just using Google without thinking.

Well, it is about ten minutes before I go teach the last class of the day. A bit of an easier day tomorrow, just two classes, including a returning instructor, and a reference desk shift. As for blogging, my clips in Bloglines are overflowing with posts that I may want to reply to, and I have other prompts in the burner. Now, if I can find the time to write them up, we may get somewhere. In the meantime, I am off to the classroom and then home. Now I better go look over the topics the instructor sent me for her class. Wow, topics. There is a treat. Anyways, off we go.

"Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater" --Gail Godwin

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