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Stage Fright

I survived my first instruction session, and while it certainly wasn't perfect, I managed to cover everything in my outline and the students seemed to have kept up with me, so I'm going to call it a success.

The bigger deal to me was that I was barely nervous before or during the presentation. Many of my elementary and middle school teachers would be shocked at that statement because I was pretty well known for having nasty stage fright as a kid. I was also a cryer back in those days, so not only was I not able to do public speaking, I would generally end up a sobbing mess about it.

So how in the world did I become a teacher? I think it has something to do with my desire to help people being stronger than my fear of public speaking. Growing up, I was the oldest child and one of the oldest cousins, so I got used to explaining things to the younger ones. In school I tended to catch on quickly, so there too I ended up helping others. Helping people became second nature to me.

The other part is that I don't really consider teaching public speaking. I would be bored to tears if my instruction sessions required me to just lecture for the whole class period. Instead my colleagues are all big fans of engaging our students and viewing instruction as more of a conversation than a lecture, which is aided by being at a college dedicated to small class sizes.

A new piece of technology I love because it allows me to communicate with my students non-verbally are what we refer to as "clickers". Basically they're little remote controls that allow students to answer questions throughout class and give me a really clear picture of whether what I'm saying is sinking in. Instead of just relying on feedback from the students willing to talk, I can see how the whole class is processing the material I'm presenting.

Even without technology there are still plenty of ways to interact with students. In my public library classes I encouraged everyone at the beginning of class to ask questions whenever they came to mind throughout the class. In my beginner classes I made sure there were lots of opportunities for me to check in with how each student was doing and either address their concerns individually or share something with the whole group if it was relevant. In my more advanced classes I left the outline more open and encouraged the students to lead the class where they wanted to go.

I'm sure it will be awhile before I feel comfortable being that free in an academic setting, but my students are still free to ask questions throughout and I can also make sure I'm open and approachable. Eventually I'll adapt to this new environment enough that I'll feel free to let the students lead me through their library tours.


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