Teaching adults, no child’s play

what the best college teachers do

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to teach.  This shouldn’t sound like such a scary proposition, given that I am a former elementary and middle school teacher, as well as a certified second language teacher (French, not English, but that’s another story).  But I wasn’t teaching eager-eyed first graders or even those steely-eyed arbiters of cool (read 7th graders).  No, I was teaching adults, professional ones with considerable expertise and experience with the topic I was planning to teach.  I only briefly felt like an imposter, as Brookfield termed adults who go back to school and feel they have no right to be there.  After all, as a former principal, I had some expertise and experience of my own to share.  Adult students, however, present challenges and opportunities unique to their ages and stages.  As educators themselves, they have a keen eye for good teaching and are in an excellent position to evaluate bad teaching.  And while they probably won’t act out if they experience the former, they can disengage from the whole process so politely that you won’t even notice the energy drain until it’s too late.

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Regaining Momentum

To compliment the “Distractions” posting by KRED, I thought it would important to mention not only distraction management, but the regaining of momentum following the holiday.  As I am sure many people feel, you rush, rush, rush to get to the holidays, make sure that all gifts are bought and social events attended, you collapse in a heap after New Year’s and then it’s just… January.  Some of us enjoy a month-long break.  Others take the few days off for the holiday and get right back into it.  I returned back to work on January 3rd, ready to tackle what I hope to be a productive Spring semester.  Thus far, it has been exactly that.  Unfortunately, it has meant that I have been not up to too much blogging and I’ve been a bit swamped.  So, in honor of the crazy thus far, I wanted to get a little post up so I could help regain momentum. First, a video! And then I will explain my reasoning for including this:

Human-Based Percussion and Self-Similarity Detection in Electroacoustic Music from Anderson Mills on Vimeo.

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Living in a Digital World, part 5 — Help me, Wikipedia! You’re my only hope.

As you may have noticed, on Wednesday, 18 January 2012, Wikipedia didn’t work.

Male with black tape across mouth bearing words "content blocked"

Image cc license from Flickr user brianjmatis: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7145/6723758731_f8a9f8c7ab_b.jpg

Wikipedia and a wide range of other sites including blogs like BoingBoing went black and many other sites including Google and Flavorwire used censored logos and content in protest against legislation proposed in Congress to protect copyright.  The two pieces of legislation, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), would ostensibly block sites that illegally provide copyrighted content for free, but would also have a detrimental effect on access to websites and information legally and legitimately available on the Internet.

On Wednesday morning, I received one request from a colleague for clarification on why Wikipedia wasn’t available.  For another user, I tried unsuccessfully to track down the posts I’d seen the previous day about how to make one’s blog go dark;  the posts themselves were difficult to find because the blogs supporting them were on strike. For my own benefit, I found myself visiting sites I knew were down, simply to see what was up in place of the usual content.  A couple library-themed online comics and most of the library-related blogs I follow had messages in protest and links to resources for learning more about the laws and contacting government representatives. I eagerly read the information posted on the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and thoroughly enjoyed the LOLcats protest video with appropriate lyrics set to the tune of Don McLean’s signature song “American Pie.”

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Grey and white cat in lap, with paws on laptop

Image cc license from Flickr user pjmorse: http://farm1.staticflickr.com/212/500139740_5046965fa3_o.jpg

My distractions at this moment:

  • Cars passing and the fact that, though the streets are dry, it sounds like the roads are wet
  • Someone playing video games in the other room
  • The cats, one trying to sleep on my lap between me and the laptop perched at my knees, the other staring at me from the floor by my feet
  • The plethora of other things I’m supposed to accomplish today
  • The Internet

The cat in my lap has now moved to sleep on my wrists. Obviously, she doesn’t see this as a distraction;  in her mind, it’s the computer and whatever I’m typing that must be distracting me from what I should be doing, namely, paying attention to her. When she gets really irritated, she puts her paws across my hand and flexes her claws, then turns to stare at my over her shoulder with that look that cats have perfected, a cross between boredom, disdain, and eye-rolling irritation. This post, ladies and gentlemen, is apparently less important than this furball.

In the book The Secret Miracle: The Novelist’s Handbook, on the topic of distractions and handling them, the responses from two different authors express very well the delicate balance in dealing with distractions.

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Grad School for Beginners

Image Courtesy of Flickr User Jason Verwey

“A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.” – Lao Tzu

Graduate school is a large life decision that can both enrich your life and frustrate you.  Like our friend Lao Tzu alludes, it’s not the pursuit of comfort that you exercise by entering graduate school, but the pursuit of knowledge.  As I put the close on this semester and look back, I think about how many challenges and triumphs we had this Fall.  For one, my husband recently completed his first semester of graduate studies.  Now, I have been a student or worked in an academic environment for the last 11 years, so I took for granted the struggle of a professional coming back to school for the first time in a decade.  In this blog post, I want to give a little “Grad School for Beginners” for those who might be needing a little refresher in the basics.  Some of you may be seasoned veterans who are teaching a class for the first time,.  I hope this post serves as a good starting point for your students.  For others, you may be dipping your toe in the grad school waters, taking a class this Spring semester.  As we get ready to get back in to the swing of things, here are some of the best lessons and resources that I’ve learned to help get you through it.

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Pre-Holiday Library Lessons Learned

Outside the Southeast Anchor Branch of the Enoch Pratt Library, there is a statue of Frank Zappa with Santa hat on his head for the holidays

Image cc license from Flickr user tigerlillyshop: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7145/6578988197_eccb05d7c4_b.jpg

‘Twas the last Friday before the holidays

and silence reigned in the stacks.

There were no patrons nor queries,

not a call, e-mail nor fax.

The books were all shelved

in their places with care

in hopes that, undisturbed,

they would stay there…

(with apologies to Clement C. Moore)


For some libraries, the holiday season means a massive rush to the finish, followed be peace and calm and an opportunity for inventory, staff training, and wearing jeans to work.  In the last week before the holiday break, there were some important lessons learned which I thought might bear sharing as they apply for librarians and library patrons, beyond this stressful period and into the rest of the year.

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