After the excitement of a weekend spent bellydancing, this week has rather dragged. Work itself is a bit of a grind these days. Everyone has so much to do, that you never get time to invest the kind of quality that you want into things. I work at a state university, and the budget situation here is quite dire. People leave or retire, and they are not replaced. Everyone has an increasing workload, with no letup in sight. Of course, I'm grateful that I even have a job. Many people are not that lucky. But it's tough times for all, to be sure.
I'm dying to get to my writing projects, and it's a real effort to put aside the time I need to do it. I did get to some of the book chapter that I'm writing this past Wednesday, so minor victory there. I'm writing a chapter about assessment in credit-bearing library courses. I've taught such a class, twice, a true victory for a girl voted shyest in her senior high school class. The book that I'm going to be contributing to is a collection of case studies, and I'm enjoying writing my chapter. I (shockingly :) enjoyed teaching the class, and it's fun to write about the techniques that I used to gauge student progress and achievement of course learning outcomes.
The first time I taught the course, I had a talkative, engaged group. My experience was really excellent in every way. I was really learning my way with effective teaching styles. I teach single session library instruction classes all of the time - it's part of my job as an academic librarian. But teaching the same group of students twice a week for an entire semester - that's a whole 'nother ballgame. I desperately, desperately did not want to bore them. I'm anti-boredom. We've all had teachers that put little effort into their teaching presentation; sure, they're experts at the content, but actually conveying that content to an actual student? Not so good at it.
I had a teacher in college that I consider to be the best instructor I ever had. And I went to school for a llloooottt of years; perpetual student, that's me. What can I say, I'm a bookworm; I like school :) Anyway, this teacher always engaged his class and made all of his material come alive. He used humorous and entertaining anecdotes to relate the material to an understandable level, and often told us funny stories about events in his life to lighten the heavy lecture time. He once told us that his secret is never to let a full 20 minutes go by in a lecture without interjecting a short anecdote or otherwise actively involving the students into the class - otherwise, people will be sleeping. Thus, I have tried to incorporate this type of philosophy into my own teaching. The first time I taught a full semester course, I really felt the positive effects. The students responded. I loved them :)
The second time I taught the course, you would have thought someone had threatened the very life of each of them right before class should they dare utter a word. Or crack a smile.
*thought bubble over the head of CL's student* "She just made a joke, but I WILL NOT laugh..."
I made fun of myself in gentle ways; I told all kinds of stories about Henry and Mike and the amusing goings on in the life of the Catholic Librarian. I had them do interesting in-class exercises that did things like relate the Library of Congress call number system to their iTunes library. Getting them to even arch a brow was a Herculean effort.
When the course evaluation comments finally made their way to me, I have to admit that I was very apprehensive about looking at them. My feelings are hurt very easily; pretty much any criticism is destructive to me. So I opened up the electronic file...and the evaluations were good. And one student made a comment about me and my teaching style that was so positive and so touching that I actually started crying right there in my office.
Hum. This all makes me feel better. Which is good, because although I'm not teaching the full semester course this semester, I have a slew of single class sessions coming up starting Monday and I'm decidedly not looking forward to them. I have a little secret - when I teach I wear dark colors because no anti-perspirant in the WORLD can work it's magic against the level of anxiety that I put forth. Not to be tmi, it's not an odor issue (thank the Lord God) but when I'm nervous, I will sweat. And teaching makes me *very* nervous. In fact, I'm getting nervous right now just thinking about it. But somehow, I manage to do it, and I think that I do a pretty good job. All that nervous energy has to produce a positive benefit *somehow*, right?
So Monday I'm going to be teaching 3 classes; this will pretty much be the worst day of the entire semester. I can guarantee 2 things (1) I will be wearing a black shirt, and (2) I will consume a glass of wine when I get home.