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Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Socratic Method.

Three years ago I decided to be a library science major. As soon as I got my BS, I realized that I probably should have picked any major besides library science. Grad schools don't particularly care what your major was as an undergrad, and certain tracks are best suited to those who have previous degrees in other areas, like history or education, or pretty much anything besides library science.
My minor in computer science is useful, but only barely.

So I've been working in an elementary school library for the past couple of years. I use the term "working" very loosely since I do work, but I don't get paid for it. It's not exactly a volunteer job either since I started out there to fulfill an independent study course, and have since gotten school credit in other ways as well.

The SMS (school librarian) suggested that now that I have my BS, I could sign up to be a substitute librarian for the school system. Signing up is actually a lot more intensive than it sounds and requires background checks and fingerprinting and a whole lot of paperwork. But still, it's exciting to think that I could actually teach a library class by myself.

Wait. Hold on. By myself? What have I gotten myself into?

I see my mentor teaching these dull-eyed kids day in and day out. The little ones are fine; you read them a story and they're happy. Once they hit 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade though, then you're supposed to instill some information acquisition education into them. I hear her lecture for five minutes and then ask the class a question. *crickets* It's like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller. Anyone? Anyone?

So if that doesn't appeal to me, why the heck did I get into this business in the first place? The thought of teaching an entire class who stares back at me obviously wishing they were anywhere else is just terrifying.

So I stumbled onto a teaching method called The Socratic Method. I am a fan of Socrates (though I do not recommend reading both Republic and Symposium at the same time, which I did my last semester as an undergrad in simultaneous philosophy and english classes; it's confusing).
There's an excellent example right here:
That sort of teaching looks fun and exciting. Since a school librarian isn't a classroom teacher, I only see kids once a week for instruction. I think I could pull that sort of teaching off with such limited time available.

I'd start simply, by asking something easy - "What's the difference between fiction and non-fiction?" for example - and build it from there to teach them how to find information using the catalog. In my little fantasy class, I get the kids to use the catalog, pick out one non-fiction book (with a vague understanding of how the Dewey Decimal Classification system works), and then give them 5 minutes to absorb some information from the book. At the end of the 40 minute class, I'd have kids stand up and share one piece of information they learned from the book if they want to.

Participation is key. Silence in the library is what I'm trying to avoid.
posted by hilary at 1:59 PM |


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