Where You Been, Loch-Wouters?
Just seconds ago, I hit the "submit" button for grades to go to the registrar. Yep, I've been an instructor this past semester. At the graduate level. For my alma mater UW-Madison SLIS. Teaching Public Library Service for Children and Teens. On my off time. Online.
When the job opening came up in June for a fall online graduate-level 3-credit course instructor in my career field, I was like, "Oh I could do this." I've thought off and on about whether I could teach at some point in my career. It was a long-time (albeit, secret) dream. After all the workshops I've given on youth services I thought SNAP! After looking at a syllabus from the last online instructor (about five pages), I applied with confidence and was hired in early July.
From there, I can only compare the past 5.5 months to a wildly careening run down a steep ski hill by a skier who had never strapped on downhill skis before. Syllabus building; learning the online component; going through piles of books to finalize my textbooks; driving the five-hour round trip weekly to consult with faculty; meeting and talking with generous and supportive teaching colleagues to get up to speed - that's a peek into those first two hectic months. And everything felt completely Alice-in-Wonderland nuts.
There wasn't a minute of that time that I wasn't worried and scared. What HAD I gotten myself into? This was...hard! And challenging! And intellectually stimulating! And freaking time consuming. The online component was a little challenging and I sucked alot of the ever-patient Distance TA's time away holding my hand. I was glad I had vacation (sorry, honey, the Utah hiking trip is off). And I got used to getting up at 4am daily to do my course prep and saying goodbye to weekends.
The very worst moment was discovering that each of my online lectures needed to be very short and concise - no more than ten-twelve minutes. Whaaa?!?!?! For a chatty person like me, that was a hellish nightmare and THE number one most difficult challenge. I think I kept them down to that length once.And to get there usually took 7-8 hours of writing, thinking and composing per lecture.
I woke up thinking about my readings, lectures, class discussions and students and went to bed thinking about them. That concentration really pulled me through. But it didn't leave much time for anything else.
By the beginning of October, after the first assignment was in, with a month of lectures under my belt and the students really bringing it on in the course, I calmed down and began to enjoy the experience. I felt more comfortable with the software. I wanted to stimulate my students to see the big picture of youth librarianship and they really responded. It wasn't a fancy course and if I ever get the chance I will make it a little more interesting ("OMG," I can imagine the students saying, "Not another lecture/discussion AGAIN? Can't she mix it up a little to create a more interesting format?")
I'm a little wistful it's over. I loved watching students learn over the couple of months and share their discoveries. As challenging as it was, it was THAT satisfying. But what will I do with all my free time? Hello, blog. Hello, family. Hello, friends. Hello, reading for pleasure. And that's good too!