Hello Library Day in the Life! I’m the Data Services & Government Information Librarian at the University of NC at Greensboro.
Rather than document my day as in the past, I’ve decided to just talk about the highlights of each day. Yesterday’s highlight was teaching my Political Science class. I teach a sophomore-level class on international relations. I didn’t blog about it last semester because I was spending much of my free time on prep. This semester I have a good plan, and besides a three or four hour session on the weekend to go over my notes or create slides or grade, I don’t have to slave over every particular part. I’m hoping to spend more time this semester reflecting on the class to see how I can improve my teaching.
Yesterday was a highlight because it was the first class that was mostly discussion driven. I have a short 50 minute time period, which is really 45 or 40 once they have settled in and I have gone over any logistics. We were talking about neoconservatism as an ideology and its relationship to the main theories in IR, liberalism and realism. I wouldn’t normally talk about this much except that their textbook had a blurb on it and their Zombie book (yes, zombie book) had an entire chapter. I thought it might be a hot topic of conversation, especially if I asked a question at the beginning that was slightly controversial.
The students handled it really well. I had people speaking that I had never heard from and some of them were trying to integrate the theories into their comments. We moved a bit into another topic that is more for a future class, but as we will come back to that problem (humanitarian intervention), it was a nice way to highlight themes for the future.
I have difficulty sometimes with the discussion format–students want to raise their hands and be acknowledged by me, but I really want them to speak to each other. We finally got into that mode after a few minutes. The problem is the classroom set up–I’m at the front and they are facing me and not each other. In my smaller sections I’ve had them make a circle (of trust), but with 41 students that is difficult. I often do small group discussions with (write-pair-share), but they always end up looking to me as the leader for the discussion. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.
At the end of class I did a short introduction to constructivism and we will finish up with it and feminism on Wednesday. Constructivism always is a bit of mind bend for some students (A student last semester told me that “I’ve never heard of that third theory!” as if I had made it up! Fun times). I will definitely write more on Wednesday about the class!
While teaching this class may seem unrelated to my work as a librarian, I would make the case that it supplements my librarianship in unique ways. I have already had consultations with several of my students who were in my class in the fall. My relationship with the political science faculty has always been good, but as I am often in their building I see them much more than I ever, and they have questions about the library and about resources. I don’t know if this is true yet, but I also feel like I’ve been contacted more by students who were not in my class. I’ll have to check the numbers, but I’m pretty sure they are higher.
The biggest benefit has been the development of my reflective practice in teaching. This is a two-way street because I have tried to be a conscientious teacher since I started doing library instruction. I plan lessons based on the assignment. I try to think of new techniques or activities for improving learning (or keeping people awake). I also know how to plan a class so that it has a focus, so that students know what the purpose of the class is. A faculty member recently made a comment that I found interesting. He is teaching an online class for the first time and he said that he realized while prepping the class that each session needed to have a point and that he was starting to translate that into his irl teaching. Before he would present the material in a continuous path throughout the semester, but not really try to develop a beginning, a middle, and an end for one session.
Our library instruction one-shot sessions must have a focus and when teaching a semester-long class I automatically approached it in that way. It is difficult to translate that technique directly because sometimes you run out of time, especially when students are engaged in the material, but the goal is there to have some kind of structure to our classes. Teaching librarians, I don’t think, give themselves enough credit for being good teachers. Honestly considering the amount of “training” I had in graduate school for political science compared to the amount of real training I’ve had as a librarian, I simply have to be a better teacher.
But the class has also affected my teaching as a librarian. I’m definitely less and less nervous about messing up. I’ve noticed that beyond the initial boost of adrenaline I haven’t been nervous in front of people much. Man, I messed up so many times in my credit class last semester, but nobody’s life ended. And the students seemed to enjoy my instruction. Also I’ve been rethinking my library instruction sessions to try and shape them in ways that are more appropriate for the students’ real needs. I feel like I have a better insight into what they need from me–maybe it is because I know more of them now–but I also think it is because I am more familiar with what is going on in their actual classroom and how they are doing their research.
So, that was my Monday. I know this is long winded, but I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a while. If you have any suggestions, especially on the discussion part, let me know!