First teaching experience – Library Instruction

After action report.

I was so excited about my first day of teaching that I woke up around 2am and was basically awake until daybreak. I got to work around 7am, made photocopies of the scenarios and cut them into individual strips. I decided to add a sixth scenario to allow for three to four person teams. By 7: 30 I was in the library instruction classroom, setting up laptops for each table, opening up and minimizing the sites I wanted to show, and writing my learning objectives on the whiteboard.

Students from the first of four classes arrived at 8am. For the first section, I likely over taught the material, in retrospect, when I should have provided the required material and allowed the embedded tasks in each scenario drive the learning process. For successive sections, having learned that lesson and having seen demonstrated in the stacks the strength of the embedded pedagogy, I turned the dial back, and limited the classroom phase to 10-15 minutes. The teams were randomly arranged and I assigned the scenarios to each team.

On the way to the stacks, we passed a stairwell that had portraits of each university chancellor. To break the ice, theirs and mine, I told a couple of stories about the chancellor for whom the library was named, Hyram Tyram Hunter. Once we reached the stacks, with 45 minutes left in the class period, I turned them loose to accomplish their assigned tasks. Then, along with their instructor, I roamed from team to team, answering their questions and steering them in their search. It was clear that the students were engaged, even animated, and eager to get their task accomplished. I heard some very interesting comments from the team members, which I hope will be included in their postings to Blackboard. Each team was required to post their reflections/findings/conclusions on the exercise on Blackboard.

It appeared that each successive class section achieved the assigned task quicker than the previous section, and by the fourth class, the teams had accomplished the task and made their submission to Blackboard with time to spare in the hour. I wonder if my over-anxiousness at the beginning slowed the first class down a bit, and if the resolution of my anxiety over the course of the morning was reflected in the performance of each section and each team within the sections.

As an aside, I think the students were very excited about the scenarios that had North Carolina content, though they were equally animated by the Paulo Freire and the Ranganathan questions, and in both cases, exceeded the task requirements.

More to follow…

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For my Wednesday freshman english classes (stand by for revisions)

Some thoughts on my first teaching experience this week.

1. I don’t want to bore them with silly platitudes about libraries. They’ll just say, “so what?”
2. I do want them to get first-hand experience of searching and finding information, to feel the thrill of the hunt.
3. So I am thinking about coming up with a series of “hunt” scenarios.
4. No more than 15 minutes of work in the classroom, then I will camp out in the stacks and let them go to work.
5. I will stay around as a resource, then give them my contact info for later.
6. Each group will be required to share its info with every other group.
7. Each team will appoint one person to scour the libguide.
8. Each team will appoint one person to serve as reporter.
9. Looking for a way to have students post their results and conclusions

Additional thoughts (with help from twitter buddies)

1. May share with them that they are first year learners and I am a first year librarian – we are discovering learning strategies together.

2. Will post hints/tips for each scenario to the libguide page I am going to build Sunday and encourage them to flip through all the tabs during the classroom phase.

3. Might alternate the “terms of the hunt” across the four sections and compare results.

So, the scenarios:

1. Tell me the name of a poetry movement that arose in western North Carolina in the 1940’s. Name 3 or 4 poets from that school and find 2 examples of their poetry. Search terms: poetry movement; North Carolina; 1940’s (Hint http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/brief-guide-black-mountain-school)

2. In the early 1960’s a college in North Carolina became famous when four of its students staged a non-violent protest against then-legal racial discrimination practices. What was the name of that college? List the four students’ names. How many of the four students are still alive? Find two books and two articles covering the event and subsequent movement.  Search terms: Sit-ins; North Carolina; 1960.  (Hint: http://www.northcarolinahistory.org/commentary/299/entry)

3. What Indian mathematician and librarian became famous throughout the world of librarianship with his 1929 book, The Five Laws of Library Science? Find three articles or two books that look at modern interpretations of his ideas. Search term: “The five laws of library science” (Hinthttp://eprints.rclis.org/7252/1/Application_of_Ranganathan%27s_Laws_to_the_Web.pdf)

4. A Brazilian educator and writer wrote a seminal book on pedagogy in 1970 that has become a classic around the world. What was the name of that book and what tiny country in West Africa did he choose for a case study? Search terms: Paulo Freire; pedagogy   (Hint: https://libcom.org/files/FreirePedagogyoftheOppressed.pdf

5. There are several websites that focus on how to evaluate websites for accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency and coverage. Define these terms for your classmates and find at least four different systems for evaluating websites and blogs.  Search terms: website evaluation; blog evaluation 

Added scenario:

6. What North Carolina governor, alarmed at the technological progress Russia made with the launching of the Sputnik, decided that his state had to move beyond textile and tobacco and proceeded to establish the North Carolina Governor’s School, the North Carolina School of the Arts, the North Carolina Community College System, and to consolidate the UNC system? Find two biographical items on his life (books or articles). Search terms: North Carolina, governor, education champion.
(Hint: http://www.northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/547/entry)

a librarian reflects on the first week of #MOOCMOOC, part two

OK. Just what is meant by Jasperian-split? (p. 79) What is this consciousness as consciousness of consciousness other than a poetic play on prepositions?

Earlier in the paragraph, Freire makes reference to “intentionality” as the essence of consciousness and how “problem-posing” education “epitomizes the special characteristic of consciousness: being conscious of, not only as intent on objects but as turned in upon itself…”

My knowledge of Portuguese makes me suspect something is lost in the translation. So I have ordered a copy of the Portuguese edition from UNC through the ILL system so I can check directly. But never mind, we can still work with it as it is.

I mentioned earlier that I teach my first library instruction class next week. Wednesday. Four sections of Freshman English, back-to-back. One hour each, one hour per semester. I have no intention of boring them to tears with a stack of powerpoint slides. We are going to chat for ten minutes, then turn them loose for 50 minutes to “hunt for stuff” in the stacks and on the library website under supervision. My goal for today is to plan those “hunting” tasks in a way that includes achieving the learning goals already established. It brings us back to “intentionality” and “consciousness of consciousness,” or meta-consciousness.

I don’t want to trick the students into learning, because a “trick” makes it a one-way process that might backfire once they learn the truth. I don’t want to be the guy behind the curtain pulling levers. And ultimately, I don’t want to cut off the opportunity to learn something new from the students, an opportunity that requires, no demands two way free exchange.

Now, back to Jasperian-split. Ok, I admit, I had to look it up. Siri didn’t know, so I went to the Oracle. The Oracle pointed me again to Fanon (see part one) (http://www.crvp.org/book/series02/ii-7/chapter_i.htm) and through him, to these Bob Marley lyrics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg97JiBn1kE):

We’re sick and tired of your ism and skism game
Die and go to heaven in Jesus’ name, Lord
We know when we understand
Almighty God is a living man
You can fool some people sometimes
But you can’t fool all the people all the time
So now we see the light
We gonna stand up for our right

And this Rilke sonnet (http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/archaic-torso-apollo):

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

In short, the Oracle told me, the Jasperian split is the gap between form/format and content/context in learning, and the awareness that to close that gap one must be willing to create, to re-create, to change the normally acceptable structure and order and to be conscious of that closing and that change as an evolving process, i.e., we know when we understand, and you must change your life.

Now, to Emily Dickinson. ModPo (Modern and Contemporary American Poetry) folks know of my total adoration for Emily Dickinson and have heard me quote that the only way to approach understanding an Emily Dickinson poem is “on your knees,” implying the academic/intellectual humility required. Here are the lines:

From all the jails the boys and girls
Ecstatically leap,—
Beloved, only afternoon
That prison doesn’t keep.

They storm the earth and stun the air, 5
A mob of solid bliss.
Alas! that frowns could lie in wait
For such a foe as this!

“Jails” as a metaphor for banking approach to education? Freedom from constraints (storm the earth and stun the air) the needful to generate in young minds “their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as static reality, but as reality in process, in transformation.” (p. 83)

a librarian reflects on the first week of #MOOCMOOC

I first discovered Paulo Freire on the dusty street corners of Bissau, where dog-eared, well-used copies of his books could be found in plenitude. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t read any of them, but I remembered the name! For the purposes of this blog post, I want to reflect on two ideas mentioned/alluded to in chapter two of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the teacher-student contradiction, and meta-consciousness. Then close with thoughts on the Emily Dickinson poem, “From all the jails the Boys and Girls.” .

But first a digression. Is it just me, or am I seeing shades and shadows of Fanon throughout the reading. Does anyone know if Freire and Fanon ever met? I am sensing a very strong connection…

I begin teaching next week. I am very excited about it. And worried just a bit. Will I emulate my previous instructors and aim to be “the sage on the stage?” Or will I exert effort to break away from the old mold and earnestly seek to resolve the teacher-student contradiction that Freire talks about? I am a librarian, and so much of library instruction is “one shot” teaching, definitely the “banking method,“ where one tries to pour as much information into the students’ heads as possible in that one hour per semester. But how about a new method? How about we turn the students loose, in the stacks and in the databases, and set them on a path of true, memorable, and transformative discovery, discovery in the stacks? Some preparation will be necessary. We will need to “flip the classroom” and encourage a certain amount of “programmed” self-learning prior to the encounter.

But that brings up another issue, one which will repeat itself as we proceed. Is there a foundational need for critical information literacy that underlies the critical pedagogy push? Or is that just an effort to dichotomize, to postpone, to obfuscate students’ engagement. Freire says the teacher-student “…is not ‘cognitive’ at one point and ‘narrative’ at another. She is always ‘cognitive,’ whether preparing a project or engaging in dialogue with the students…In this way, the problem-posing educator constantly re-forms his reflections in the reflections of the students…the role of the problem-posing educator is to create; together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge at the level of the doxa (common belief/popular opinion) is superseded by true knowledge, at the level of the logos (knowledge of a higher system of thinking and of the world).” (p. 81)

to be continued…

#MOOCMOOC 01222015

Save this space for readings and tweets review tonight

Foundations

Somewhere between catching up on the readings for the MOOC Prometheus Unbound, and getting ahead in the reading for the new MOOC on Hybrid Pedagogy, I penned this response to a co-worker I interviewed who asked me, after the interview, for my thoughts about the foundations of my strengths and areas of expertise outside librarianship.  With her permission, I am sharing that here.

“Sorry to be so late getting back to you. Friday afternoon was pretty crazy!

In my youth, I actually considered foregoing college and going into bakery management straight out of high school. Then the ill-timed Russia wheat deal and the OPEC oil embargo (and perhaps a bit of faulty mgmt) eventually put our bakery out of business (mid 70’s), so I gave up on that plan and went to college a year late. My first major was electrical engineering. Then I changed to biology. Then changed back to electrical engineering. Then changed to economics and then to agricultural economics. All the changing burned me out, so I quit and joined the Navy, where I enrolled in the Nuclear Power program. After six years of engineering training crammed into two years, I reported to my first boat, the USS Hammerhead, a fast-attack submarine, and after two years, transferred to the new Trident class boat, The USS Michigan. I spent three years on the Michigan before finding my way to get back to college, to Florida A&M,  where I did a double major in economics and naval science (with a whole lot of mathematics squeezed in! In fact, had I taken two more courses and done the admin paperwork, I probably could have finished with a triple major!).

So that is the foundation of my strengths (and weaknesses). Everything between then (1987) and now (with the exception of meeting Filomena in London in 1995, definitely a preordained event) is just a footnote, or perhaps several pages of footnotes. I love poetry, love to read and write it. I love the Psalms, and I can still recite from memory Psalms 1, 23, and 100 even though my parents had me memorize them before first grade. I love the sea, and miss all the feeling contained in quote, “Oh Lord, thy sea is so vast and my boat is so small.” I am learning, during this monastic phase of my life, that I really enjoy cooking, making a pot of something to last me three of four days. I worked at a public library during high school and knew then it was all I wanted to do, but it has taken all this time for me to get back to it.

Wow, may I post this to my blog?

Happy MLK Day!

Ray

2015: New job, new courses, new sets of interests.

So, I’ve been meaning to crank this blog post out for several weeks, since moving to the mountains in late November, in fact. But you know how moving is, stocking the place, discovery every day, new habits, etc.  Today I woke up early with a mission. Took a long, hot Saturday morning shower, got dressed, put on my Martinho Da Arcada apron, and got started with the crock pot dish of the upcoming week: pot roast with carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and whole jalapeno peppers. Once the crock pot composition was completed I was starving for breakfast, pancakes with fresh blueberries inside and on top! But no, no, delay gratification. Let’s post to the blog!

OK. This blog post, and subsequent posts, are going to be a combination of ideas, a reflection the state of things right now. Maybe later we will unpack it all. Maybe not. So here it goes. Not necessarily in this order, the relocation, the new job, the new MOOC(s) on poetry and critical pedagogy, the new monastic lifestyle, and new research interests. First, though, I want to take a quick look at the new job and how I ended up at Western Carolina University in the North Carolina Smokies.

It was all very random. But it didn’t start the way one might expect. A job announcement on the CUA LIS listserv and on INALJ.com that advertised a summer internship at the Federal Reserve research library caught my attention. I applied online, submitting my resume, list of references, and a cover letter. Ironically, I interned at the Fed in 1986 as an undergraduate in the then section called Mortgage and Consumer Finance, where I conducted a research project on the future feasibility of adjustable rate mortgages. The chief librarian phoned and invited me in for an interview a few days later. It was four blocks away. The interview went well and they offered me the internship. I started in mid-May.

In early June I flew out to the Special Libraries Association conference in Vancouver. More about that in a previous series of blog entries that start here: https://raymmaxx.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/sla2014-day-one/

In late June, the announcement for the Western Carolina University (WCU) librarian position came out. I received it through three channels, the ILI listserv, the CUA LIS listserv, and INALJ.com. Largely on a whim, but with some interest because it was in my home state, I went to the website and applied. At this point, I had applied for literally dozens of library jobs, academic and non-academic positions, in the DC area, in Virginia, in North Carolina, and in Tennessee, all in anticipation of completing my coursework and comprehensive exams by late summer 2014.  Permanent jobs. Temp jobs. Contract headshop jobs (hated to do this because of the high differential between what they charge the client and what they pay the librarian. But I did it. You know who you are.). Most got a non-response. A small percentage got lukewarm responses.

Then, the second week in July, still on the Fed internship, I got an e-mail from the WCU search committee about scheduling a Skype interview. Now it’s getting interesting, but it’s my third Skype interview and I know that foreplay doesn’t always result in a marriage proposal, so to speak. But I say yes, and we do it. If nothing else, it’ll be a good professional development opportunity, I tell Filomena, I tell myself.

The WCU Skype interview went well, I thought. But I was overcome with second guessing and self-doubt because I hadn’t managed to make it to 2nd base on any of the previous Skype interviews. In the interim, I attended the annual conference of the Society of American Archivists, igniting a new set of professional and scholarly interests.  It was a great conference, that concluded with ThatCamp, my first. I loved it! Here is a blog post from the conference: https://raymmaxx.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/blogging-saa14-save-this-space/

I was mildly but delightfully surprised when I got a phone call and an email the following week inviting me to Cullowhee for a face-to-face interview.  Filomena was very busy with a project she was working on, so I saved the news until she was less occupied with work, coinciding with a two week vacation in Lisbon. Again, I didn’t have a strong feeling that I’d get the job, but I convinced us both that going down to NC for the interview would be a learning experience in itself. In Lisbon, we managed to get a special tour of the Mafra Library, an amazing 17th century library described by some as Europe’s first Enlightenment library.  Don’t miss it if you visit Portugal. Here is a link to their site:   http://www.palaciomafra.pt/en-GB/Library/ContentList.aspx 

I flew into Asheville on September 11. We (my host and I) made the hour drive to Cullowhee. It was love at first sight, the fall foliage, the mountains. All day interviewing the following day was exhausting. I had a good feeling but I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t certain I did well enough to get an offer. But I had a good feeling. Upon return to DC, I e-mailed my professors at CUA to tell them how it all went, where I thought I had performed strongly, and where I had definite weak areas.  Here is a note I wrote to my Cullowhee host:

Dear           ,

I am still processing everything from Thursday and Friday and hoping to do a blog entry, but wanted to get back to you with a thank you note and initial thoughts.

Thanks again for hosting me and setting the whole interview up.  I know these things require planning, logistics, etc., and lots of work.  It is quite an investment, especially when you still have your normal work to get done.  So I just wanted to express my appreciation for your efforts.

 I wish I had boned up more on collection development and on actual business information sources but I also think the core courses I took gave me the foundation to quickly learn whatever specific parts I need to grasp.  CUA has a course in University and College Libraries that would have better prepared me, but just like the other course in Business Information, neither was offered during my time there.

All the librarians and staff were so friendly and open and willing to engage. Several complimented me on the presentation and I was happy to get that feedback because I wasn’t sure how it would be received.  I enjoy doing those types of things and hopefully that came through.

And of course, the place is beautiful, the scenery, the mountains, even the campus – all clean and pristine and beautiful.  All that adds quality to life!  

I hope this works out, you guys like me, and I get an offer.  But I already feel very fortunate just having gone through the interview experience. So whatever the outcome, I am chalking this one up as a win.

Well, thanks again.  I will look forward to hearing from you.  Also, whatever the outcome, I hope to bring my wife down this fall to see the beautiful mountain scenery as the leaves change colors.

Best regards.

Ray”

Several weeks passed. In the interim I continued to apply for jobs, mostly in DC, had phone interviews and even got a face-to-face interview for a temporary, 6-month fill that I didn’t really want. Then, the first week of October, my prospective department head phoned me and offered me the job. I was ecstatic! Filomena and I packed the 2002 Ford Focus and drove to Cullowhee the week of Thanksgiving.  The faculty/staff newsletter gave me this nice introduction:  http://thereporter.wcu.edu/2015/01/state-department-retiree-joins-hunter-librarys-reference-department/