As easy as Alpha Bravo Charlie

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced since starting my first full-time position as a librarian is instruction.  I am not, by nature, a teacher.  I get terrible anxiety when standing in front of a room full of people (all those eyeballs blinking at me!).  My heart starts beating uncontrollably and I lose control of my voice.  My only reprieve is that I have to teach maybe one class every week.  (I commend every teacher out there for his/her ability to do this on a regular — and much more frequent — basis!)

My campus, Lehman, has a sequential information literacy program with three required library instruction sessions plus whatever classes faculty from other departments request.  To date, I’ve taught maybe seven classes in the 2+ months I’ve been on the job.  Preparing for these classes takes up a considerable amount of time, mainly because I’ve never taught before so I don’t yet know the best or most effective way of preparing.  I’ve been basically writing scripts for myself, incorporating each class’s learning objectives and re-using other instructors’ exercises and examples.

However, I have been trying to make these classes my own, too.  I fear I may become known as the Simpsons-crazed librarian on campus because of my penchant for including clips from episodes of The Simpsons.  For example, when I’m teaching the class on critical thinking and source evaluation, I’ll show the students this clip (to give an example of a non-critical thinker):

Computer Will Do Our Thinking Now!

I’ve ripped two more clips from this particular episode (The Computer Wore Menace Shoes) and I show them to the class when I think it’s appropriate.  Based on the survey taken at the end of the class the first time I taught it (…last week), the students seem to enjoy the brief clips!  I hope they’re gleaning some useful information from them, though, and not just watching them for the sake of watching them.  (I question myself constantly.  This is based on my lack of confidence.  I do believe I’ll get better, though!  I’m still way too new at this game; I just have to keep telling myself that.)

What do you do to make your classes interesting or more relevant?


Maura A. Smale 2010-11-11 Reply

Great to see you blogging here, Allie! I felt the same way when I started teaching. Good preparation was key — if I had a plan and script I was much more confident. Don’t worry, you’ll be amazed how fast the jitters fall away as you get more and more teaching under your belt.

(And I know the age thing can be tricky — I remember back about a million years ago when my spouse taught English Comp as a 23 yr old grad student. He wore a tie to every class!)

Alevtina Verbovetskaya 2010-11-12 Reply

Thanks, Maura! I keep waiting for the jitters to go away but they’re being pretty persistent. (I’m too impatient to wait a couple of years for them to subside! I want them gone now! ;)) I have a plan and script for every class I teach but I’m still a wreck in front of the class.

I wear “business casual” to try to set myself apart from the students. And that’s as formal as I’d like to be! (I’m already uncomfortable in this garb.)

Maura A. Smale 2010-11-11 Reply

Oh and P.S. using the Simpsons is a fabulous strategy!

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