Posted by: Emily | October 27, 2009

Being a team player

Bottom of the ninth, game seven. Two outs. Down one run, there’s a guy on third. Do you want to be the guy at bat? That’s always my question as I sit with a beer and a bowl of popcorn as the minutes tick down on the NCAA basketball title game, the Super Bowl, post-season baseball. And I never want to be that guy. Too much pressure!

But I guess that’s what makes champions–willingness to pick up the ball under pressure and run with it. My own micro-version of that drama happened today. The Dean of university libraries came to observe my class. Now, the stakes here are pretty minor, no rings or endorsement opportunities, just respect and reappointment to a third year (hopefully). And yet, my stomach was like a drunk game of ping-pong, and I would have given a lot to hand over the podium to one of my colleagues. It showed as I started talking, jittery and shaky over my PowerPoint slides.

But then things kicked in to gear. And you know who made that happen? My teammates: the students in the class. They asked questions. They challenged me. What if you search that in Google? Search that in Google! I bet you get something faster! challenged one student. (We did, but it was hidden behind a subscription wall, so I was all, face!) When I asked them what kind of ‘thing’ they were looking at in an MLA Bibliography abstract, they raised their hands to say it was a book chapter, and explained how they could tell in a couple of different ways. I called for volunteers to share their search process, and I got them, a couple of students coming up to the front and doing their searches for the group.

When my Dean went over my teaching review with me just after the class (I did fine), he complimented me about a lot of the things the students did and were. I was engaging, he said, but I couldn’t have looked like it unless they were as well. I guess the audience matters.


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