Wednesday, July 19, 2006

8 teaching

You get good teaching days and bad teaching days. On Monday, I had a good class and an ass class.

I'm prone to get hostile toward dullards. And, on reflection, the students can be the problem. So what I've come to is that my students need a stake in my class. A good reason to listen up, ask questions, take notes; ideally their instructor would provide such a reason before hand. I only get one hour with them during the semester -- just a quick bang and blame -- but I've got to establish roles and purpose in the first minute or so.

My wife, an ESL teacher (and a bloody good one), passed along an idea she picked up in a citizenship class -- hand out a tough quiz. Like, "Hi, I'm Woody Evans, a librarian here, and today I'll be showing you how to use the library to find the info you need to write a good research paper for your class. Now break up into groups of three and do this quiz. We'll go over the answers in about three minutes from now." And the quiz is, say, a dozen multiple-choice questions about which database does what, using multi-volume reference books, a touch of old Boolean logic, truncation. After running through the answers to it, the students ought to have an immediate, tangible, vested interest in being with-it for the duration of my class. Right?

So we'll see how that goes.

Another important vital part of this process is involving the instructors. I've got to start making sure that the students are clear on exactly what the hell the assignment is before they show up in my library to get a detailed explanation on how to use tools that they don't know why they'll need. That is, the instructors have to give them a good reason to be there, too.

Who's up for an hour of detailed chainsaw engine troubleshooting and repair? It's only boring if you don't need the firewood.

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