Memoirs of an Immersion

| November 23, 2010

On Wednesday, November 10th, I was arriving at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tennessee for Immersion ’10, “an intensive, 3.5 day program of training and education for instruction librarians,” as described by ACRL, the sponsoring organization (a division of the American Library Association).  Scarritt-Bennett is on the campus of the former Scarritt College for Christian Workers; it’s now a site for meetings, conferences, and retreats of various kinds.  Check-in was at the Laskey Building (pictured at right), which was also the location for the majority of the Immersion activities from the evening of Wednesday, November 10th through noon on Sunday, November 14th.

On Wednesday evening my 19 fellow Intentional Teachers  and I were the verge of participating in a steady stream of individual and small-group exercises, including some of the following (these were activities of the first full day, Thursday the 11th):

  • drawing a picture of our favorite teachers, and then pairing off with another group member to talk about the person;
  • making a model of our images of ourselves as teachers, using pipe cleaners, mirrors, hearts, popsicle sticks, colored cotton balls, and glue (our choice of components);
  • talking about our scores on the Teacher Perspectives Inventory (TPI), which we had taken online prior to the Immersion;
  • working on the specifics of developing a personal teaching philosophy, using elements from works of Stephen Brookfield and Parker Palmer we had read in advance of the Immersion;
  • beginning work on our individual teaching philosophies, focusing on the key elements of Values (what the TPI calls Beliefs), Action, and Sustainability.

The dining area for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (plenty of hearty Southern fare) was the Susie Gray Dining Hall (to the left in the picture on the left).  Meals were a good opportunity to unwind with and get to know one’s colleagues, all of whom had been involved in fairly non-stop and concentrated action and reflection in (for me) quite unfamiliar group situations.  Despite the steady pace of collaborative work, there were also regular breaks during the morning and afternoon sessions, which allowed for further informal interchange with co-immersionists, or a walk on the quite green and peaceful campus (or a brief lie-down to regroup!).

During the evening of the first full day, we watched the Glee TV show pilot (one of our teachers describes himself as a Gleek), and then, given a choice between watching another Glee episode or Up the Down Staircase (when was the last time you heard mention of that film?), we opted for another Glee episode.  We saw the fourth episode from the first season, the one in which the football team’s dance performance of Beyonce Knowles’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” at a critical juncture in an important game proves to be a resoundingly successful strategy.  I’m a Glee neophyte, but I have to say that there’s some fine stuff done on the program; gives one ideas for strategies to try out in library instruction (well, maybe not; and yet . . . ).

After what I would have to characterize as a thoroughly exhausting day, we retired to our various rooms in dorms on campus; mine was in Gibson Hall, and it took me right back to college (except that it was a single room and a lot more monastic than my lodgings as a freshman).  I have to say, though, that the accommodations were perfectly adequate for the work at hand, i.e., falling right to sleep in a very quiet and quite comfortable space.  Something I’ve been very aware of since returning to New York is the incredible noise level by which we’re surrounded here;  the absence of it in Nashville was a nice feature of the Immersion, and though I wasn’t really conscious of the quiet at the time, I’ve definitely missed it since my return.  More to follow.