Reflections on Library Instruction Monster Week

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Sadly, this was not where we dressed up as characters from Monsters Inc and then taught library instruction sessions. It was instead a week (or three) of intensely packed and tightly scheduled library instruction sessions for CMN, ESL, and RHET (communications, English as a second language, rhetoric) classes. Last week alone I taught six classes.

This is just a collection of reflections of moments that worked incredibly well, moments that might need to be tweaked, and possible changes that could be made to instruction in general.

  • Jokes work! Make jokes! I have a few on hand (which, of course, I cannot at the moment recall), but I know a lot of them are self deprecating. That can get into dangerous territory, where instead of making the students laugh you make yourself look less than knowledgable, but I have found that in general, it works, and works well.
  • Setting a firm tone at the start of class works! I have taken to telling students that “I am not averse to taking your phones in the middle of class,” and it gets their attention. Especially since inevitably I have to call someone out for using their phone (or LAPTOP!? in a classroom of computers!) during class. Once they know that I’m serious, they tend to pay more attention. Interestingly, this works best with the all freshmen rhetoric classes, and least well with the international-heavy ESL classes. Not sure why.
  • Count to 5 (minimum) after asking a question. Take a drink. Make them think you’re going to wait forever.
  • I like clickers, but I find that if there are too many in a row, the students start to zone out. This is just a note, neither positive nor negative. Clickers are a great way to get feedback, and then respond to it, but they can also be problematic. (But this is true of most technology, of course.)
  • In general, I really dislike TAs who sit in the back of the room and don’t pay attention. It’s your class, too! Even though I’m in charge for the day, you shouldn’t sit in the back and browse the web or do an assignment of your own. Encourage participation! Make sure students are on the right page! Be involved! Interrupt me!
  • I definitely “borrowed” this from an instructor I taught for: the EBSCO to database relationship can be hard to define, but she described it as “You buy a book from Amazon, and you read the book. When you use it in your paper, do you cite Amazon, or the book?” I have used it slightly tweaked: Amazon = EBSCO, book = database, book chapter = article. It seems to be working quite well.

As the monster instruction weeks come to a close, I wonder how different any future job I get will be. Will I sit on the sidelines more, and teach less? Will I be doing more instruction design? Curriculum design, even? I’m not sure, but I know that if I teach less, I’ll miss it. Teaching is great, and the rush you get after a class has gone well is almost as good as a good workout. Endorphins for librarians!

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