News from Nashville

| November 12, 2010

I’m attending an intensive four-day program in Nashville (called an Immersion), sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and focusing on information literacy; I’m in the Intentional Teacher track (there’s an Assessment track also meeting here).  It’s so intensive that there hasn’t really been a chance to take in any of the country music scene, and probably won’t be, which is too bad, since the evidence of serious music-making here is pervasive.  But I’m here to work, and work it has been, though definitely rewarding and mind- (and spirit-) expanding, by all indications.

After a welcome pizza party yesterday evening, members of my group, which is made up of 20 librarians from all over the country (and one from Quatar), were asked to consider the question “How would you feel if you couldn’t teach anymore?” and then to talk to the group about our answers.  I’ll report on my response in a future post, but hearing from everyone about their relationships to their roles, and noting the range of feelings people have about the profession, was an excellent way to ease into the concentrated learning experience we’ll be sharing from now through Sunday midday.

A great deal of the Immersion takes off from two books we were asked to read in advance of coming here, Stephen Brookfield’s Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher and Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach.  A number of the small group activities we’ve done yesterday evening and today have involved viewing aspects of teacher-librarians’ roles through Brookfield’s four lenses for critical reflection (autobiography, students, colleagues, and the theoretical literature); Parker’s writings on overcoming cultures of fear–the society’s, students’, teachers’–in order to attain true community and transformation in education have also framed a great deal of the group’s work together.  We also spent some time today looking at our respective scores on the Teaching Perspectives Inventory, a measure of teacher characteristics across a spectrum of professional and interpersonal engagements.

A lot of the work we’ll be doing from now through Sunday will involve putting together our personal teaching philosophies, something I’ve never seriously spent time thinking about; like much else that’s transpired here, it will be a challenge, definitely of the right kind.  As with any profession, it’s illuminating to be forced to think about what one does in terms of vocation (i.e., calling) and not simply as one’s work.  The process clearly is all about questioning one’s identity and integrity, and it’s for me exhausting, but I fully expect to emerge with a lot to think about and (I hope) to put into effect.  More later!