This will be my last Day in the Life, as Reed and I got sick with RSV (and him with bronchiolitis as well) so I’m feverish, wiped out, and confined to bed. I wrote this Thursday evening before the worst of the illness had hit (and man, it hit like a ton of bricks during the night!)
Soooooooo tired this morning. Since we’d had such a bad night’s sleep last night, I let Reed sleep until he woke up on his own (Adam too). Reed woke up very stuffy, kind of crabby, and not really into eating much in the way of solid foods. I dropped him off at daycare and he seemed pretty happy there playing with his favorite toys. Ended up getting to work around 8:20. This is one of those days that I wish I actually liked coffee.
Fortunately, it’s a teaching day, so I know that’ll wake me up. I really love teaching, because it gets me working with students and faculty, it gets my energy levels up, and, well, it’s just fun most of the time. I used to be terrified of teaching, but over time I’ve not only become comfortable with it, but I really enjoy doing it.
Met with the Distance Learning Librarian (who I supervise) to catch up on what she’s been working on and the progress of some of the committees she’s a member of. She is a very self-directed and highly competent employee, so sometimes it’s easy to forget that she’s only been here since August and still needs plenty of support and advice. I talked to her about presenting on a committee we’re co-chairing at the Library Council meeting tomorrow morning since she could use more experience taking the reins in committee work.
Prepped for the International Studies senior seminar I’m teaching this afternoon. I’ve been trying to find the happy medium between over-preparing (which leads to boring) and under-preparing (which leads to screw-ups) for my instruction sessions and I think I’m getting closer to a happy medium. I’m trying a new instructional technique with this class to get the students more involved, so we’ll see if it’s a success or a major flop.
Did some collection development work as I’m woefully behind in the spending of my liaison funds.
Discussed the website redesign with the Systems Librarian and saw some graphical elements that the university webmaster had made for us. They look completely awesome and I’m so glad he was willing to work with the library on this since graphical design skills are something seriously lacking amongst the library staff.
At 1:45, the International Studies seminar showed up (15 minutes early — damn I’m glad I always start setting up early!). It’s a small class of 11 students, so an ideal one to try out new ideas with. Their assignment for the semester is to write a major research paper on some political, economic or historical topic relating to the country in which they’d studied abroad the year before, so there is a huge range of library resources that could be helpful depending on the topic. Fortunately, I had two hours with the students, so we covered a lot of ground. I’d gone in assuming that since they were seniors who’d taken plenty of history and political science classes (International Studies is an interdisciplinary major), they would already have lots of experience using resources like JSTOR, CIAO, WorldCat, etc. After asking the students a few questions at the beginning of the session, I realized how wrong I was. Only half had used JSTOR and none had used CIAO or WorldCat. Wow! So, that required a bit of readjustment in how I’d planned to teach the class. The one thing I really wanted to try with this class is to have students come up to my computer and do searches on their research topic. I guessed that students would pay more attention if it was their classmate up there, and I thought I could offer suggestions and search tips that they might be more likely to remember if they were the ones doing the searching. It also just makes more sense to do searches on their topics than on canned ones I came up with.
The class ended up being the best one I’ve ever taught. The students actually clapped for me at the end, which was a hoot. The students and the professor were even taking notes during the session, which is not something I often see. I had to do a little more demo-ing of the databases than I’d planned originally, but I still had them doing the searching most of the time. They really responded well to coming up to the computer to do their searching. I chose people to come up to do different searches based on the nature of their topic (economic, current political, historical, historical political, etc.). And it worked out nicely, because some students had the problem of having very few result and needing to broaden their search and others had the problem of too many and needing to narrow their topic. There were lots of nice examples to use as teaching moments. Not only was I giving them suggestions as they were searching, but the other students were as well. They were asking all sorts of questions about the databases. I fed off the students’ energy and definitely was more energetic and animated than I am with a class where the students don’t seem engaged. I came out of class feeling completely excited, awake and happy.
It’s experiences like this that remind me of why I love my job so much. Some days I’m mired in meetings, paperwork, creating tutorials and other activities that pretty much have me sitting in a chair all day. I like some of those activities (especially creating tutorials), but if that was all there was in my job, it wouldn’t be for me. But then there are those days when I get a lot of reference questions at the desk or I teach, where I really get to help students and faculty. That’s the stuff I love most about my job. Fortunately, as the semester gets going (it’s only week 2), I’ll have more and more interactions like these that will leave me energized and grateful to have the job I do.
I was interested to see that you invited your students to come up the lectern to conduct their searches. This is a technique I used a great deal when I was doing frequent instruction sessions in classrooms where the students were not at computers.You may be interested to read more about this experience and my advice on leveraging this technique. (if you don’t have Emerald full text let me know and I can get a pdf for you):
I’ve been reading your blog quietly for quite a while now, but you hit the nail ON THE HEAD with this quote, “trying to find the happy medium between over-preparing (which leads to boring) and under-preparing (which leads to screw-ups).” I totally feel like this when I’m teaching info. lit/library instruction too. It really is a balancing act between knowing what you’re talking about to just playing off your audience of students to really feel the direction the class will go.
I also think I want to try out your technique of having students come to the front and trying the searches. I’m always looking for new ways to engage my students and for assessment ideas!