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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Teaching

With my esteemed colleague Sharon Morris, Director of Library Development and Innovation for the Colorado State Library, I just finished teaching a graduate class in "Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness" for the University of Denver's Library and Information Science program. It was fascinating. I have a few observations.

* The next generation of librarians is really smart. I like them.

* I learned a lot myself, at least as much as the students. Class planning worked out to about two hours of prep per hour of class. The cool thing was just getting some clarity around both the content and the research behind each concept. Sharon is working on a PhD in this field. She has a commanding knowledge of the latest findings. That's pretty handy for a class like this. Our students got the very best thinking available. And I think our overall approach - know thyself, play well with others, pay attention to the measures of organizational effectiveness -- captures the right lessons for our time.

* Sharon also brought a keen understanding of experiential learning to the class. We didn't just lecture. (In fact, we RARELY lectured.) We asked our students to step in and claim their learning. They had to investigate, co-present, brief, provide feedback, receive feedback, participate in panel presentations. We asked the class to interview candidates for a job. We made them have that crucial conversation with others that is the last step before firing - and provided a format predicated on the most profound respect. I think, finally, we gave them the experience of leadership, in six classes. My takeaway: I wish I'd had classes like this.

* Grading is a lot like performance evaluations. But performance here equals meeting the goals of the syllabus. So, like any conscientious supervisor we did strive to clearly articulate our expectations. Then assess student understanding. Over the past two days I spent some 14 hours reading, responding, and ranking student journals.

* Teaching is a remarkably inefficient way to make money. Two hours prep per class. Maybe half an hour debrief and grade per assignment. Grading, as mentioned above. My conclusion: it's not about the money. It's mighty darn interesting. It is, in fact, exhilarating. It may even be a professional obligation. But is it a career? Clearly, for some it is. For me, it's a hobby. I sure enjoyed it. But consider this a shout out to teachers everywhere. Thank you for what you do!

2 comments:

Dorothy.Shapland said...

This class was one of my possible electives this summer. I elected not to take it - and please know that I did you a huge favor - I'd have given you a run for your money (yes, I'm THAT student)
I'm glad you enjoyed the experience. Teaching is a calling, and few that do it as a hobby take the time to reflect as beautifully as you have here!

Jamie said...

Sorry to have missed you! I see to my chagrin that I didn't mention the thing that was most fun -- the students. It was such a pleasure to hear their thoughts, read their essays, see their jumps in understanding. I feel very invested in their futures, now.