Sunday, July 16, 2006

Immersion Day One: Some quick impressions

Actually, that was yesterday, but this is the only time I have so far to do any kind of reflection. My brain is full, as the old line goes. I think that when the time comes for the evaluations to be filled out, I will be putting that down as a point to improve. At any rate, the event started in full yesterday (Saturday). Many interesting things and a very fast pace make for an intense immersive experience. So, I got up at 5:00am today. The apartment is quiet; Isis (one of my cats) is climbing on my bookshelves in my workstation, and I have some time before I have to get ready to get back into town. Great, now she decided to lie down across my binder. That's a cat for you. I think I took some good notes so far, and I will be posting those later. I think I will probably be unpacking what I learn in these days months after I am done. As they said in the first plenary, "epiphanies will continue long after." Reminded me of that essay I wrote years ago about epiphanies for our teachers' writing group back when I taught high school. The theme was epiphanies. I heard one that an epiphany is a sudden revelation into the essential nature of life.

I did the readings, but I am finding that I would like to reread a few things. Again, looks like some of that will have to wait. We'll get there.

I heard two interesting questions yesterday. Well, I heard more than two, but these two have stuck with me. One, what do we do when we have other librarians at our institutions who won't or can't teach? The actual question was do we leave them be, or do we try to change their minds and gradually move them? It's a good question to which I wish I had an answer. My personal impulse is to leave them be, but that comes from the fact that I believe in the old adage that says if you want something done right, you do it yourself. I heard this one early in the day during the first plenary. I think someone in the program track asked it, but I am not certain. The question stuck also because later during dinner I was sitting with a couple of the faculty, and they observed that it seemed some of the program people where asking institutional culture, especially internal culture, questions. In other words, they were concerned about questions like that. In the long run, by the way, I am coming to realize I may have to do the program track in the future. I am looking way ahead when I say that, but it leads me to the second question.

During dinner, my faculty member asked me during casual conversation where I wanted to be in a few years from now. The exact question was, "what's your next job going to be?" The question was not what struck me, though she was very casual about it. Folks, over time, I have discovered that experienced teachers have ways of knowing things about you that you may not even know. She knows something. Going back to the question, what stuck with me was my answer, "I'll be coordinator someplace." In other words, I will be managing my own program, and with that comes the realization that I will be leaving my current position to advance. I suppose that I have known this, but to actually be able to confidently say it without even having to think, well, it makes for a small epiphany. Of all the things I learned in the first day in sessions and from the people around me, this is the thing that is floating in my mind. It feels silly in a way. I have been listening to all this material on assessment and information literacy, had an afternoon where we got to talk about teaching, and all I am thinking about while it's still dark outside on a Sunday morning is a question of what will I be doing next. Epiphanies can be large revelations, but they have that way of being just that little thing you come to realize that stays with you.

During the teaching session, the one about the "authentic teacher," we had a chance to draw ourselves as teachers. I have to warn readers. I used to be able to draw decently back in high school, but as I have not practiced since then, stick figures is about as far as I can go. The scary thing is I saw someone with a digital camera taking photos of the drawings we posted, so someone could put that up on a blog someplace, thus the warning. Anyhow, for me, I drew two things. One, I drew a stick figure on a high wire, walking it while he was juggling a lot of balls. That would be the part of my job when I have to teach and keep the students entertained with amazing feats of bibliographic instruction. I was going to draw a second square with simply the word "splat" on it in bold letters, which would be what happens when the search I am showing does not work for instance. I have had a splat moment or two. It's not the end of the world folks. You laugh a little; you explain, and you move on. More like the splat in a cartoon. Instead, the second square was a desk, a man behind it with one of those little disk things old fashioned doctors wear on their heads. By the way, I had to look it up, and it turns out that little disk is called a "head mirror." So, I drew my doctor figure behind a desk with a computer, and I put a chair next to the desk with a sign over the desk that says "the doctor is in." It's supposed to be reminiscent of Lucy in Peanuts where she would open her booth for psychiatric help. I do a lot of that as well in the form of research consultations. In fact, day before Immersion started (Thursday), I had a student come in asking for research help. His face was familiar, but I could not place him. He had enough mercy on me to remind me that I taught for his English class last spring. He must have noticed my brief puzzlement. He was now taking a criminal justice class, and he needed to know how to find some articles on victimology; I think he had to write a critical review. I showed him how to access Sage Criminology and ran some sample searches; I asked him a little about the assignment, and once he felt comfortable, off he went to try it out. I do a good share of repeat business in my work. By the way, I joked at my table that I could have drawn a confession booth instead. After all, I have these little theories about librarians as confessors. I know I am going to have to write out that idea in more detail some day, not sure anyone would publish it, but let's put it here then.

One final epiphany for this morning. Some day, I would like to be doing what the Immersion faculty are doing. I am probably invoking hubris for pretending I could do what they do, but part of the reason I take that risk is idealistic. Remember I mentioned that my faculty member knew something about me. The librarian who simply told me in graduate school that I would be a good librarian probably saw something as well. Folks, I have been fortunate in the sense that people often had faith in me and saw things I may or not have seen. I think a way to pay back that librarian will be if someday I can help train other librarians. Stacey, if you ever find your way to this blog, I wish I could tell you how those simple words have made a difference for me. Thank you for writing that letter of recommendation and helping me get on the path that got me here today.

Well, I could sit here and ponder some more, but the birds are singing outside, and the sun is rising, which is my cue for getting ready to leave the apartment. So, I better go for now.


Mark said...

Hi Angel, hope Immersion continues to be a good experience for you, despite a bit of overload.

I have no doubt that you could get the "librarian as confessor" article published. Maybe not in CRL or one of the so-called "important" journals, but I have no doubt that there is a good venue for it.

Enjoy the rest of Immersion and don't let 'em stuff your brain too much. Sometimes mental overload serves a good purpose, but we must be left with the capacity to process the info also. It is a delicate balance.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Mark: Thanks for stopping by. I can use all the good thoughts I can get. Oh, they will stuff my brain anyhow, and that is a good thing. They are also making me ask some important questions, a lot of them to which I do not have an answer, at the moment, but that is a good thing as well. By the way, I had the good fortune of meeting Ranger and shaking her hand. She sent your regards, and thus I send mine back. Best, and keep on blogging.