Thursday, June 20, 2019

Teaching, Mentoring, and Aging

Brooks, Arthur C. (2019, July). "Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think: Here’s how to make the most of it." The Atlantic.

"If older faculty members can shift the balance of their work from research to teaching without loss of professional prestige, younger faculty members can take on more research.
Patterns like this match what I’ve seen as the head of a think tank full of scholars of all ages. There are many exceptions, but the most profound insights tend to come from those in their 30s and early 40s. The best synthesizers and explainers of complicated ideas—that is, the best teachers—tend to be in their mid-60s or older, some of them well into their 80s.
as we age we can dedicate ourselves to sharing knowledge in some meaningful way."

As usual, I've been living my life backward according to lifestages researchers, partly simply because of my nature, partly because my workplace changed and scholarship for librarians became required rather than optional as it was when I started at the workplace. In my 30's I was dedicated to spirituality, service, and wisdom. I married in my 40's and created a family life. In my 50's I have been expected to publish and reach for prestige, when I feel more inclined to mentor. I am asked to do service to the profession when I did that heavily in my 30's and am ready to do service to the institution - where my experience is what is needed.

"The secret to bearing my decline—to enjoying it—is to become more conscious of the roots linking me to others. If I have properly developed the bonds of love among my family and friends, my own withering will be more than offset by blooming in others." Now this touches me - getting to know my cousin's son while he attended college, getting to know another cousin better, watching my younger colleagues grow and blossom, seeing my godson and nephews, and making new friends while deepening older friendships.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Mentoring, reference consultations, informed learning

I mentored a faculty member for 5 years. Last year I created a summative peer teaching observation form based on best practices recommended by the teaching and learning center and the relevant college. Then I completed the classroom observation for the professor applying for a promotion. Paradoxically, this is counter to formative mentoring best practices.

I've been thinking that mentoring is like spiritual direction or spiritual companioning. Mostly listening, taking notes for the mentee. When they're asking for direction, tell them what I heard. If there's a resource that might be helpful, suggest it when there seems to be an opening: the mentee is ready, willing, and asking.

A friend suggested that I be one of the portfolio mentors for the teaching and learning center (next summer 2020, since 2018 was dedicated to scholarship and 2019 is already booked).

Doing a reference consultation with a graduate student can be like listening them into being a scholar, doing scholarship. They connect and synthesize, move toward adapting and originating. Learning while using information = becoming an informed learner.

Today the libraries + inquiry blog post I am reading makes cannily similar points.  "Innovating Against a Brick Wall: Rebuilding the Structures That Shape Our Teaching" – the 2019 Keynote by Veronica Arellanos Douglas at The Innovative Library Classroom Conference, posted June 12, 2019 ( In it, the author asks, "What if we changed our review structures to highlight maintenance, affective work, relationship and connection? ... so much of what we do as teaching librarians is ... about fostering connection, thoughtful reflection, and iterative practice." Also, she says, "as educators in libraries... we value and hold dear:
  1. Learners, whoever they may be and in whatever context they exist.
  2. Learning, via open minds and integration of past experience and connection.  
  3. Our relationship with learners and their learning."
She references "relational cultural theory" that "emphasizes the primacy of relationship, connection, and intimacy in human lives (Jordan et. al., 1991)" and that also seems like what I've written about as relational liaising (forthcoming book chapter). Veronica writes, "when we facilitate learning we take into account the subjectivities of everyone, including ourselves. We all depend on one another to grow and learn." Mentoring informed learning, facilitating collaboration using Bakhtin's principles of dialogue (multi-voiced meaning making)!

As a side note, I have learned to practice some of the items Veronica recommends for librarians as valuing our time and modeling respect for ourselves: setting boundaries around my work, saying no when justified. 
  • "In creating flexible structures that make it easy for ourselves and the teaching librarians we supervise to set limits and create boundaries around our teaching practice and pedagogical consultation and we are creating the kind of healthy workplace we all need. We are demonstrating respect for ourselves as educators and acknowledging that we are a valid actor in the educational theater. In short, we are demonstrating that we matter."

Jordan, J. V., Kaplan, A. G., Miller, J. B., Stiver, I. P., & Surrey, J. L. (1991). Women’s growth in connection: Writings from the Stone Center. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.

Ranger, Kim L. (forthcoming 2019). "Relational Liaising to Integrate Informed Learning into the Disciplinary Classroom" in Ranger, Kim L. (ed.) Informed Learning Applications: Insights from Research and Practice. Advances in Librarianship Vol. 46.