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Library Instruction: What I've Learned

Last week I had my final "big" teaching day at the internship: a packed morning with three classes in a row. I've now taught the same lesson to eight unique sections belonging to four unique faculty members. While I in no way consider myself an expert, I do feel qualified at this point to talk about some of the big things I've learned through this experience.

1. It's okay to be nervous.

Experiencing nerves does not mean that you are doing something wrong or are not up to the task ahead. I've heard from several experienced instructors that they still routinely get nervous. For me, my nerves generally fade away once the class is underway and I get into the "flow" of the lesson, but they can still show up again at seemingly random moments.

2. Every class is different.

Even though I had the same lesson material for eight classes, each one turned out a little different. I asked different questions, said different things, and spent more or less time on certain parts of the lesson. Also, the students and faculty members bring their own personalities and moods into the classroom, giving each section a unique character (some more conducive to learning than others). 😉 You never know what kind of class you're going to get, which is why good instructors learn how to "read" a room and adapt to the situation. I think this is a skill that just comes with experience. It is nerve-wracking, but it keeps things interesting!

3. Teaching is a physical act.

I was somewhat unprepared for how physically taxing teaching would be. It turns out that I like to be on my feet a lot when I'm teaching, and I like to walk around. Wear comfortable shoes. I can't emphasize this enough. I also found that I needed lots of water and chapstick. All that talking makes your mouth dry. I actually had a sore throat after my first day because I was unaccustomed to talking so much. Take care of your body, and give yourself a mini-break if needed.

4. It's probably not you.

There is a lot that instructors can do to make lessons relevant, interesting, and engaging and to manage classroom dynamics. But you can't do everything for everybody and students have a part to play in their own learning. Don't take it too personally if you get students who are bored, tired, distracted, or just not feeling well. Everyone has a bad day sometimes. It's probably not you.

So there you have it! Some of my big "take-aways" from my first experience teaching. How am I feeling about teaching now that I've gotten a real taste of it? I'd say that I have more confidence in my teaching abilities, more realistic expectations for the classroom experience, and more knowledge of my own limitations. Teaching was enjoyable, but I also found it physically and emotionally draining. At this point in my life, I'm definitely not ready to make a full-time career out of it. But I'd like to keep practicing and learning from those more experienced.

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