19 April 2010

Some hard questions

Spring is such a marvelous time in Vermont. Winter was pretty easy this year but still pretty long. Spring brings everyone such joy and no where is it a reminder of rebirth and reinvention than Vermont.

It also happens to be my favorite season.

So, with Spring fully underway and a lot of my immediate responsibilities completed, I have been trying to think a bit about my work. About my job. And my areas of interest. About my areas of weakness. And what I love about my work. And what I don't.

This is something I think we all give thought to every now and again. But I took some more formal steps towards thinking and understanding my thoughts. First, a little background...

I love notebooks. I carry a notebook around with me all the time to capture ideas, take notes, remember things. A lot of people do this with their computers or the PDAs. But, I know myself with technology. I don't always use it in the way that I mean to. Meaning that I get distracted some times. I Facebook when I should be capturing. I email when I should be jotting. So, I limit my access by putting myself in that good old fashioned space of putting my pen to paper on a regular basis.

Each notebook contains lots of content but I try to go back through them regularly, to catch lost threads. Usually, I do that when I am taking up a new notebook. However, with Spring being here and having just gotten back from conferences, I thought that I would end my current notebook with a bit of a reflection as a chance to capture things that I want to do, things that I love to do, things that I need to do, things that I need to revisit. So, I started some pages. They are:
-Things I Love About My Work & My Job
-Things I Want to See Change About My Job
-Things I Have Noticed in the Past Year
-Opportunities that Interest Me
-Areas Where I Need Help
-Interactions that Stick Out

And then I have some blank pages.
I feel certain that there are a number of ways I could deepen this reflection. But in sitting down to think about these prompts, I am amazed by how quickly some things come to the surface. One of them is that I love helping students. In the classroom, at reference, with their research, with their writing...working with students makes me feel good. And, not to toot my own horn, I am good at it. Students seem to like me because, I think, I am genuinely interested in what they have to say. Which I am. It's a win-win.

As I think about that, I think about teaching. How the kind of teaching we are doing at Champlain, steeped in Inquiry, really does require a genuine interest in what students have to say. And that is something that is difficult to teach. It is something that comes from within. Andy and I are going to hear Parker Palmer next week and I feel like this is something that he talks quite a bit about in his writing: authenticity. I can't begin to say how much that resonates with me in the classroom. And at the Reference Desk. We spend so much time talking about service in librarianship but what does that really mean on a day-to-day, person-to-person basis? How do you engage your service mindset? Is it something that you turn on? Is it something embedded in you? Is it something you have learned? Is it something you are cultivating? Is it a combination?

Which leads me to a harder question: How can we strengthen our connection to service in a genuine and authentic way? How can it be something that we cherish and enjoy in our work…even when students fall asleep in sessions or when they tweet that library sessions are boring (yup, that happened). Is it something that warrants a workshop? Yes, of course. But it goes deeper than that. One of the things that I loved at LILAC was the talks that discussed professional development. But how can we professionally develop something so personal? So unique to each of us? But also something so vital.

It’s a hard question. And one I am thinking over. How about you?


Rachel M. Slough said...

These really are good questions, and ones I'm thinking about too (with no concrete insights yet). I'll be really excited to hear your perspective on Palmer's talk. Thanks for this post :)

The Sheck said...

Thanks, Rachel. I am excited to hear Palmer as well and am just rereading The Courage to Teach to get myself in the mood! Have you read it? Amazing.

Rachel M. Slough said...

I have read it, and found the journaling exercises in the companion part (blanking on the title and not feeling like a good librarian to look it up) really helpful too. Palmer is great for getting (re) inspired to teach. Hope all is going well and that these hard questions are getting you useful places.

Emily said...

I love the idea of constant prompts in your notebooks. I completely agree - typing will never replace pen to paper for me. And, in the spring time, the pulsing desire to do what I love and critique what I don't just burgeons.

I love the thinking that you do and I am absolutely inspired by your energy. I'd never wish myself back in school, but I'd love to be guided toward research by you!