Sometimes, when I plan and execute information literacy lessons and things go well, I feel like the…
I pat myself on the back and write about it in the AISL blog and I’m all, “Yay! School libraries rock! I rock! Look at us saving the the world from information illiteracy one child at a time! I deserve a raise!”
Then… A week later, I plan a lesson and I’m ready to save another class of souls from the pit of information illiteracy despair and…
When this happens, it feels like, “OMG… How will I ever again manage to make it to work with pants on, clean underwear, socks that match, and with all of the buttons on my shirt placed in the appropriate corresponding button holes?!?!”
In the scope of an entire school year, I feel like I get very few opportunities to work with students on information literacy lessons so I HATE going home at the end of a day feeling like I squandered a precious block of face-to-face contact time with students on a bad lesson. I think about these failures. I think about these failures a LOT!
My first instinct when this happens is to preserve my self-image and my self-worth. “That group of kids are pills.” “That group of kids is SO immature.” “That group of kids…”
If I stick to it long enough to get over my ego, sometimes I can get honest enough with myself to get to, “I think that lesson went wobbly because…”
Last week I had three cohorts of frosh come through to do background research on Papua New Guinea. They are cohorts in our cross-disciplinary, project-based learning program. It was a rather tough experience for all involved. Students ended up frustrated, lost, and excited to get away from the library as soon as possible; Mr. Wee ended up frustrated, sweaty, grumpy, and saying counter productive things to frosh; and two different social studies teachers new to our school ended up shell shocked by a negative experience in our library. “Welcome to the Mid-Pacific Library, gentlemen!” Ugh!
What else is there to say, but… #Sad
Here at Mid-Pacific, though, we try, in various ways to understand that, “FAiL is a First Attempt in Learning” so when we FAiL we need to reflect on the experience, pick ourselves up, and set out to do it better the next time.
I’ve finally come to realize that most of my FAiLed information literacy lessons FAiL when I attempt to present TOO MUCH and to do TOO MUCH in my lessons. The perception of the scarcity of face-to-face instructional time makes me feel a little desperate so I attempt to teach students too much. In this case:
- NoodleTools set-up
- Database searching (in FOUR different databases)
- Database citation in a shared NoodleTools project with 4 student collaborators
- How to notate which notes came from each source in the collaborative note taking document.
Our classes are 85-minute block periods, but when you see the desired outcomes for the lesson bullet pointed out like this, you get the picture.
That’s just STUPID instructional design!
So what do I do?
I apologized and explained things to my newly shell shocked, new colleagues who were, of course, incredibly forgiving (teachers are really kind people).
I resolved to dial back my obsession to make EVERY SINGLE information literacy lesson about EVERY SINGLE information literacy skill that my students will need to know before they go to college. It’s a long game. We don’t need to go for a touch down EVERY TIME we touch the ball so EVERY SINGLE LESSON doesn’t have to be about formal academic citation. There are lots of ways to build information literacy that moves students toward being skilled, thoughtful, effective users of information that don’t, ultimately, end in a formal works cited lists so I’ve got to get over my obsessive compulsive desire to see a works cited list for everything my kids ever do…
Finally, I resolved to work on repairing my relationships with my some of my frosh students that got hurt by my words and actions that were not helpful or productive to their growth as learners. They weren’t perfect in their behavior by any means, but the truth is that I set them up to fail and I have to own that.
If I had a do over, given the parameters of the project and the research at this point in the unit, I’d probably have students brainstorm their research questions as a group in a collaborative document, research in ONE database, have them take notes in their collaborative shared document, and model locating the preformatted citation in the database.
Repeat with a second database as time allowed.
We would, of course, work on incorporating NoodleTools and formal citations in subsequent projects, but we’d have exited this particular project with a lot more trust in our relationships than was the case this time out. I think the trust that got lost is, perhaps, the thing over which I’m agonizing most.
The silver lining in the black cloud here, is that I have 3.5 more years with these frosh so there’s time to make a come back. There are silver linings in black clouds when we look for them hard enough.
I messed up. Now my plan is to forgive myself, dust myself off, and to show up tomorrow prepared to do better.
This isn’t the end. It’s the beginning…