The Authentic Librarian, Teacher, Student & Self

Well, the fall semester is finally here, along with all the attendant responsibilities:  lectures, readings, research, assignments, collaborations, conferences, my graduate assistantship, as well as continuing Teen Tech Zone and Teen Advisory Group with the fabulous teenagers at my public library.  Maybe all this will help explain the recent lapse in posts here on Librarian in a Banana Suit…

This semester I’ve noticed something new in my classes, although I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon at all — it’s just the first time I’ve happened to observe it:  my instructors are nervous!  Sweaty palms, self-deprecating jibes, fidgeting with the AV equipment, mumbling nervously to themselves, etc.  They are TERRIFIED to meet a new crop of students who will be judging them on their aptitudes as teachers for the duration of the semester.  As the instructors get to know us, they will become more comfortable and relaxed, I’m sure.  It’s funny how I’ve never really noticed those first-day jitters before.

I recently read a FABULOUS article from In the Library With The Lead Pipe that encourages Librarians to embrace an authentic teaching persona.  I think its true that Librarians are being called on more and more urgently to become teachers, and this is likely to make many of us feel very inexperienced, uncomfortable and self-conscious.  Carrie Donovan’s blog post, Sense of Self: Embracing Your Teacher Identity thoughtfully addresses this problem while acknowledging the nervousness (& terror!) that is inevitable when opening oneself up to the scrutiny of a group of students.

I’ve thought about this a lot this summer as I’ve stood in front of a group of teenagers in the computer lab at the public library.  Ultimately, isn’t teaching about being the most self-actualized person you can possibly be, and encouraging others in their same quest to become self-actualized?  I’ve worked hard to show the teenagers that I respect them, and to earn their trust in return.  For the most part this has been pretty successful, although I think I would have done a few things differently ~ maybe I’ll share some of those experiences with you on this blog at some point.  But these teenagers do trust me, and I’m wondering how I can encourage this mutual trust and respect to blossom into more meaningful engagement & information literacy work.  I’m sad that the school year allows for only 1 two-hour session with them per week, instead of the 5 three-hour sessions we had in the summer.  Just as things were getting really good, my time with them is being cut short.

Finally, all of this thinking about teacher personas has made me wonder:  what is my *student* persona?  I believe that the best sort of learning happens between what Freire might call “teacher-students” and their peers — so shouldn’t I expect the same of myself that I would from my instructors?  As Carrie Donovan puts it, I should present the “shiny side” of myself, the “most special and charming version” of myself.  I’ve realized that, as a student, I can often come across as defensive and argumentative — even when offering ideas and contributions that are otherwise received very well.  I will definitely be working on that this semester, as a student AND as a teacher.  Hopefully my instructors will be just as forgiving of my nervous defenses & peculiarities as I am of theirs, as we all work toward authenticity and self-actualization!


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