Thursday, June 22, 2006

teaching 6


Blaming the students is not the answer.
I've got a lot to learn about teaching.


Got angry teaching today. Library instruction for an English Comp. class, two sections. The first section had twice as many students as the second, and by the end of the second class, I was disgusted.

The disgusting thing is, I had no tangible reason to feel that way. The students were as passive as ever -- no heckling, no real rudeness.

After nearly an hour of exploring the intricate details of database searching, library catalogs, truncation, and the use of the index, the students just aren't as illuminated with joy and curiousity as I'd hoped. I'm up there moving, talking, asking them questions, and they just kind of sit. And watch me. And listen. And it's clear that this is way, waay more information than they want -- but it's not as much information as they will need. If they only knew how much more there was to say about this stuff, they'd be dismayed -- kind of in the same way we were dismayed by the Star Wars Kid?

Hilarity with a dash of incredulous pity? Well.

Nobody wants to be the Star Wars Kid. So this feeling like I'm the butt of some unsaid joke steadily rises with each class. And my response is to get sterner, gruffer. To point my beard and shake my fist zealously as I shake the ceiling and sling sweat with old timey library science revival hymns bustin out the eardrums of those that have not the ears to hear. And I've started smirking. If they don't respond to my questions, I ask dumber questions. That's not a great direction to go in. That's not, like, real progressive or mature or anything, and I'm not proud.

It's a tricky situation. These classes are guests in my library -- I don't want to come off as smug and cocky and disdainful. I want to welcome them and teach them.

Maybe I should wear a silly hat. Devise a scavenger hunt. Toss out Tootsie Rolls. Hell.


Reading: Jim Carroll: The Book of Nods
Reading: Arthur Edward Waite: The Book of Ceremonial Magic
Reading: Kusen by Livingston Roshi
Reading: Sterling's blog at WIRED, Beyond the Beyond
Reading: Sukdhev's World
Reading: Comics Worth Reading
Reading: Beers of the World
Listening: The Ricky Gervais Podcast
Listening: Wessex Archaeology Events
Listening: The Viking Youth Power Hour
Weather: heavy weather coming -- must remember to park the truck on high ground tonight.


Iris said...

I feel your pain.

I've been doing my reading for Information Literacy Immersion this summer (coming up at the end of next month), and they keep talking about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation... It's all wonderful in theory.

So far in real life I've only had one or two classes that were energetic and engaged, but I think that's more the result of having a couple of energetic and engaged students in the class than anything I did. I'm working on it, though.

Let me know if you figure out the answer before me. :)

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Ah, little grasshopper, you have come across one of the mysteries of BI: how to motivate the kids who are as active as the paint drying on the wall. Not sure I have an answer, but getting angry with them is not it. Don't take it personal, never do. You can try all the little tricks: the tootsie rolls, the hat, so on. I often try using contrasts with Google, since I know a lot of them will turn to that anyways, and show them how much work it would be to use the Internet search engine. And don't go into too much detail. It should be like Joe Friday, "just the facts." Besides, who said you had to be "mature." Embrace the chaos. Make them laugh a bit now and then. You'll get your point across, and do realize they won't remember it all anyhow, which is why I tell them that they can always come back for help or questions. More than I intended to type, and you probably know most of this anyways. Best, and keep on blogging.

P.S. Hey Iris, I will be at the Texas Immersion as well. See you there?

Anonymous said...

Don't lose heart. It will get better. You'll learn which battles you can make headway in and how best to do that, and which ones you can't and how not to beat yourself up over it. You'll keep asking yourself questions until you re-assess what you're "supposed" to and what you *can* do and where those two things meet. They do like to save face for each other, but your enthusiasm will catch on more than they may be willing to show you. I know this all sounds cheesy, but I beat myself up for my whole first year thinking I hadn't done a damn thing, really. Not until after class was over for the year did some of them feel comfortable enough to express (and always in private!) how much they appreciated what I'd tried to do and how much they were really listening.

I hope that helps some.