Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Being an instruction librarian...

Last night, I was a guest speaker at the library school class of my good (read: fabulous) friend and much admired colleague, Chris. He teaches a user education course, and asked me to come speak on librarian teaching anxiety. For the girl voted "Shyest" in her senior class in high school, I have much anxiety to speak of.

I really wanted to keep it informal, so with Chris's permission, I wandered in in jeans and a sweater, sat on the desk in the front of the room, and chatted for about 35 minutes about my introverted personality and how I managed to find, and thrive in, a position that requires me to do something that I had always hated - public speaking.

I tried to mix it up with funny anecdotes. I always try to do that when I teach, anyway. A smattering of personal stories will always capture attention much more than a straight lecture with zero drop of personality. I generally try to let the stories be spontaneous; things that I plan to be funny rarely turn out to be as funny to others :) Last night, the biggest laugh I got was after someone asked me what I did to psych myself up before I taught a class. Warning them that this was perhaps a bit tmi, I said that right before a class I often feel precisely like I did when I was in labor with my son - as in: well, there's no going back now, is there? Yep, pretty much stuck. So, I come to terms with that, make an effort to greet students as they come in and try to develop a positive rapport, and suddenly, I will feel more comfortable right before class begins.

But they did laugh, which is such a refreshing change over the undergraduate faces of stone I usually see when I look out into my classroom. And they seemed interested. Always a big plus. There was no guy in a hooded sweatshirt and headphones sleeping in the back row. Bonus. So, overall, I think it went pretty well. As would be expected, I was very nervous. But that was sort of the whole point of me being there :) Librarians are not natural born teachers, necessarily. It's an acquired skill, and one that can be acquired and a fondness developed for despite a distinct lack of enjoyment at being in front of a group of people. It felt good to address a group of budding librarians and share some librarian kinship. Hopefully, I'll be invited again :)

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure that they *adored* you! I completely agree with your comment about teaching graduate students and how different they are from undergrads. This past semester was the first time I taught two grad classes by myself and I couldn't believe how smoothly the class ran and how much discussion and interest in the topic was taking place. I love when they ask questions :)


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