June 22, 2010

Trial by fire

Yesterday wound up being my first foray into library instruction. An instructor accidentally mixed up the times given for bringing his class in, so shortly before they would be arriving, my supervisor approached me at the reference desk with, "Guess what... you will be teaching today!" She was already scheduled to teach a class in the classroom, so I had to cover the other class on the computers by the entrance area. Part of my position is instruction, but it wasn't going to be for about another month until I would start.

Nothing like trial by fire as a few colleagues had mentioned to me later on. I had a slight case of terror, but at least previously sat in on a few of my supervisor's instruction sessions to be somewhat familiar with the material. I also figured there was no point in being nervous, because I didn't really have time. I was given the handouts the students get and was able to use those as my lesson plan; they also would serve as visuals since I didn't have the use of a computer/projector.

We went over what I would cover, and I was able to do a very quick run through until the class came in. I definitely had the jitters at first while passing out the handouts, but I think it was one of those things only you notice. As Olivia Mitchell said in regards to anxiety in public speaking,
Just like we don’t see the energetic paddling as a swan glides across the water, you don’t look as nervous as you feel.
Overall, I would say it went well. One of the biggest challenges was going at a pace that would keep the students who had already done similar exercises for other classes engaged, while also not going so fast that the students having more trouble would fall behind. I did end exactly on time, which was great, but I could tell about a third of the class was bored. I did find out later that a lot of that class was from our early college, so I had many high school students on the fast track. That helped me feel a little better about hearing a giggle or two, and I'm sure once I have more practice that wouldn't phase me.

Using analogies, such as going to different databases is like going to different stores when shopping, seemed to help the students who were struggling more to understand better. I would have liked to use more examples like that, but was more focused on getting across the correct information first.

Working in more humor is another goal I have for next time. I did see via the information literacy instruction discussion list (I believe) that someone is working on collecting information about using humor in library instruction, so I'd like to see the results of that when they are available. What I did do that my supervisor suggested was review how to get to the appropriate databases when the students would not be in the library: the scenario of being at home, waking up in the middle of the night, and just being so excited to do some research, what would you do to get to where we just went?

I think these improvements will come in time, but I am keeping notes of what I did well and what I'd like to work on so I can see progress as I teach more classes.