It’s not about me

After watching Char Booth’s presentation one thing that resonated with me was that I should not be so concerned about being a perfectionist when it comes to instruction, and to accept that sometimes good enough is good enough.  It’s funny because when I conducted my first instruction session last month, the librarian who co-taught that session with me said basically the same thing before the session started.  She said that teaching made her very nervous but that she had to remember that the information she was imparting was important for the success of the students.  She warned me that sometimes a session can go off track and that the only thing you can do is to just go with it and do your best.  Her basic goal for any instruction session was to convey the points that she considered to be the most important and anything after that was a bonus.  The one thing that she always reminded herself of before the session was that it was not about her…it was all about the students.

This was helpful because once the instruction session started the professor whose class it was, interrupted me early into it and totally threw my plans off track.  This was very distressing as it was the first time I had taught before (except for one on one reference transactions) and I was pretty terrified and had expected to rely on my script.  I was forced to go off script and ended up spending most of the time going from desk to desk and helping people individually or in smaller groups.   This actually ended up working out better because I found I was less nervous moving around the class than I was when I stood behind the podium.

Looking forward with that experience behind me I wonder if my style of teaching is to be more interactive and to act in a more personal way.  Behind the podium I was stiff and probably pretty boring, but while roving around the room I was able to interject some personality into my teaching style, and actually managed to garner some laughter (although I do hope they were laughing with me and not at me).  The evaluations were all positive and a couple of people said that they learned a lot and that they had fun, although I am not sure if ‘fun’ is my ultimate goal in teaching.  I wonder how you can effectively create a balance between learning and fun.

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2 thoughts on “It’s not about me

  1. Wendy, having done “stand-up” training (the reference to doing “stand-up” on stage is intentional – there are many similarities between teaching and entertaining) for many years, I have to say I still don’t really know what makes for an effective session – there are just so many factors involved (not least of which is the attitude of the “audience”) that it’s hard to get a reading on how a session will go (or even how it *did* go). To me, one small skill that can take you far in training is timing & rhythm of your speech & actions – smoothness of transitions, lack of pauses, well-placed emphasis on words. But even here, I’m probably overly aware of that skill because I continually struggle with it – somedays I’m “on,” others not. I can create bursts of fun in training if I happen to fall into occasional Robin Williams-like riffing, but the rest of the session might find me being more halting in my speaking – I guess consistency is the key, not so much “did you have them rolling in the aisles throughout.”

    • Hi Jerry, I’m hoping that I can become a good self assessor after I get a certain amount of instruction sessions under my belt. I look forward to seeing how my style will evolve.

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