Thoughts on my second week of teaching

January 23, 2011 at 8:07 pm 7 comments

I’ve begun teaching two sections of an information literacy class at a local career college two nights a week. The student body is age 19-50+, many first-generation college students who are working full-time and have families in addition to attending school, and encompassing a wide range of computer savviness.

The first week was spent (per my supervisor’s instructions) entirely on introductions, the syllabus, and class expectations without any real teaching, so I didn’t feel there was much to document, other than the need to remember to wear comfortable shoes that have traction, and that the class will be much more lively if I start the night with interactive activities rather than lecturing.

One of the first things I did this week was ask what they remembered about last week’s class, both to jog their memories and help out the students who weren’t at the first class (students can add classes through the 3rd week of classes). The things that stuck out most (aside from critical policies like coming to class every day and turning in the homework at the start of class)? The YouTube video I showed (which, though from 2009, neatly illustrates how the world of information has changed in just the last 10 years and why the course is necessary) and that we “played games.” Affirmation that I need to include more of these in my future lesson plans–cut down on the talking head!

Hits:

They love the FYE component (another 1-credit course that the information literacy instructors are required to teach as well, since it’s a first-semester class). It’s very non-lecturey; I briefly go over the required material (it’s all life skills stuff like goal-setting and time management), give some examples of various concepts (e.g., discretionary time activities, black holes/time sucks), and then ask for more examples from the students, as well as the strategies they use in their own lives. These are busy people–working and with families, even before they started school–so they’ve already developed some time management strategies on their own, some better than others. They love talking about their lives, so this has gone over well both weeks.

I love my Friday class. They range in age from low 20s to ex-military men in their mid-50s, encompassing an equally broad range of computer savviness and chattiness, but they are just a delight. One of my students failed out of the class last semester mainly, he says, because he didn’t like the instructor, and was listening to headphones and browsing Facebook last week, but I connected with him the first day of class and felt I’ve got a solid connection now after the second week–he was even helping other students of his own volition!

Misses:

Last week’s homework reading was a brief introduction to all the different reference sources. Since most of my students are already working in their desired field in some capacity already, I figured some might already be familiar with a few field-specific handbooks, manuals, etc. (e.g., the ICD-9 and DSM-IV for those going into medical assistantship/nursing), I put them in groups based on their majors and had them discuss the topic and then present their findings to the class. While I certainly didn’t expect everyone to know something, I thought it would be helpful for those with little prior knowledge to learn from those that do. This assumption was overwhelmingly proved false, however, and the students clearly thought it a waste of time, one group even going so far as to say, “We don’t use books in criminal justice. Everything’s online.” I put this on the chopping block for the Friday class.

Difficulties:

Checking in on the progress of students who are next to the wall, and therefore not within easy reach of the aisle. Peering over the tops of computers is just weird.

Getting everyone’s attention back after group/class discussion. Need some sort of cow bell or other noisemaker.

Surly/belligerent/easily frustrated students. Not quite insubordination but teetering on the brink. I outsourced this to my teacher friends on Facebook; will implement some of their suggestions and see if they work.

Students with widely varying degrees of familiarity with Windows/MS Office. This created frustration on both ends–from those who finished early and were bored, and from those who were (I thought) too distracted/unwilling to follow the step-by-step instructions for making their APA paper template. Thankfully several of the more advanced students stepped in and helped their classmates (some more willingly than others), since I could only help one person at a time.

Already, in just my first two weeks of teaching, my experience has neatly encapsulated why I decided not to become an English teacher, after spending 4.5 years in the teacher education program/student teaching: I ADORE teaching. I am really great at building a rapport with students, even the ones who are reserved or come into the classroom on the first day feeling, at best, neutral about the class and unconvinced about its relevance to their education and their lives. But students who come in determined to be angry, troublesome, and know more than me upset me, perhaps because I can’t relate to it at all; I am a teacher’s daughter and have always loved school, and I am doing my best to make my lessons relevant. I am also a perfectionist and can’t resign myself to the likely fact that my Thursday class will just have to be my guinea pigs as I work out the kinks in my taught-for-the-first-time lessons.

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An Emerging Leader at Midwinter Library Day in the Life #6

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nicole Pagowsky  |  January 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Great post! It’s interesting to see how other newer librarians, also new to teaching info literacy, are faring. I’d love to hear your friends’ suggestions about dealing with insubordination.

    Reply
    • 2. bluestockinglibrarian  |  January 23, 2011 at 8:25 pm

      Hi, Nicole! Thanks for your comment. I think I’ll be relying a lot on other instruction librarians’ blogs in the next few weeks–I’ve found Iris’s blog to be invaluable!

      I’ve gotten the following responses to my call for help:

      “Make it a teachable moment 😀 Call them out for being surly and make fun of them for it. It’s what I’d do. Aren’t you glad I’m not a teacher? 😀 ”

      “You have to perfect the teacher look, and then tell them they’re swollen up like a big ol’ pimple.

      Or, if you think there’s more to it, pull them aside after class and ask them what their problem is. Be really confrontationa…l, because you kind of have to, but in a good way. Look, I know something is wrong, because of xyz. What’s going on? Is there anything I can do? If everything’s fine, then you need to adjust your attitude. Etc.

      I was a teacher, and this worked better than you would think.”

      “Kill them with kindness and solicitude.”

      “If it’s a career college, that’s your in – you’re a professional development expert there, and telling them that a negative attitude, while it may not impact their grades, does send out a message about a lack of interest that carries on in your professor’s minds and affects the way they think about you and evaluate you should they need a reference or future support in any area – you only get out of it what you put in.”

      “another tactic: money. Write out average cost per credit hour times # of credit hours of your class. Divide this by total number of classtime hours. Explain that for every class they dick around, they are wasting $x amount of dollars, and explain that they are wasting that amount of other student’s money too. Money and peer pressure tends to work well.”

      “I’ve had some students give me ‘tude in my class as well, but unfortunately there’s not too much that you can do at the college level other than to call them out in class if they start being surly and make it clear by the tone… of your voice that that kind of attitude is not acceptable. I also remind them that they have a participation grade and that anything that is disruptive to the classroom environment impacts that grade. If they start being really rude, then take them aside after class and tell them that they can disagree with the way that you run the class in private, but that they need to remain respectful of the other students and the classroom environment.”

      “I do the”teacher look.” Just stop talking and stare at the student(s) that are causing the problem until they get the picture. I used it with middle schoolers and it seems to work with college students and adults, also. Take some wheel power to stare and have a silent class for that long. Personally, I think that if they are in college, they should act like it. If they don’t they should be told to leave and come back when they aren’t going to be a disruption, but the “teacher look” seems to work.”

      Reply
  • 3. librariankate7578  |  January 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    I’m wondering if you had any instructional classes in library school (like I did) and if you were able to use any of those lessons in the classroom.

    Reply
    • 4. bluestockinglibrarian  |  January 23, 2011 at 8:30 pm

      Kate, my school (University of North Texas) doesn’t offer any classes whatsoever on instruction (which I thought, and still think, is scandalous). Thankfully I’m not completely new to teaching, but I know the majority of my classmates don’t have even that advantage. I’m seriously considering going back to school to get my Ph.D. so I can teach instruction to library school students, because it’s a topic that interests me so much. (And, frankly, fitting all the “necessary” information into a 1-hour one-shot that students actually remember is an art form that needs to be taught.)

      What did your instruction class cover?

      Reply
      • 5. Kate  |  January 24, 2011 at 9:19 pm

        We covered a little bit of educational philosophy in the first few weeks of class (along with media philosophy, since it was an instructional technology class). We also had a week or two on lesson plan writing – essential questions, goals and objectives, etc.) and then the rest of the class was devoted to various technologies that could be used in the classroom – podcasting, video games, Google tools, etc.

        Since it was a class for students on the LMS track, it was assumed you had the educational philosophy stuff down from other requirements (they had to take 9 credits from the Education Dept), so for the rest of us who were taking it and not LMS students, we were a bit lost.

        If you want good resources, I can reach out to our prof and ask what she recommends.

      • 6. bluestockinglibrarian  |  January 25, 2011 at 9:57 am

        Kate, I would be eternally grateful if you could! 🙂

        How helpful did you find the classes on instructional technologies? What I really think would be most useful in such classes is a list of Web sites with sample syllabi, techniques for teaching common concepts (Boolean searching, popular vs. scholarly journal articles, etc.), and places you can ask questions (like ili-l).

  • 7. M. Delatte  |  January 30, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    It sounds like you are really putting great effort into making the class interesting & useful to students. I’m sure that they appreciate your energy & enthusiasm!

    Reply

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