Expectations

In my last post I discussed the paradigm shift I experienced over the last few weeks. It’s made me think a lot about expectations and how they influence the way we interact with the world. This is a theme that’s been repeating in my personal and professional life lately. We form expectations for a reason, they help us assimilate information more rapidly and to be able to function efficiently in our day to day lives. We expect the alarm’s snooze button to be in the same place each day, and that our drive to work will be much the same as it was the day before. This helps us save time and mental energy. Expectations can become a problem when they put blinders on us and change the way we perceive situations around us. If we expect our day will be challenging we are more likely to be defensive and to get frustrated when completing tasks.

If we expect students to be bored in our one shot sessions, we may not put much enthusiasm into our presentation and therefore confirm our expectation. Being aware of these expectations is enormously helpful because it allows us to make decisions about how we choose to see our world and interact with it. This week happened to be webinar week for me. I’ve attended three webinars since last Thursday. I really enjoy attending webinars, especially ones that don’t have a traditional library focus. The State Library of North Carolina recently built a LibGuide called “The Train Station” listing upcoming conferences, webinars, NC specific trainings/workshops, and self-paced learning opportunities. I highly recommend it as a source to find training to any librarian, not just those of us in NC.

Two of the webinars were hosted by Training Magazine (“Write it Right! Use a Seven Step Process to Develop Learning Activities” & “The Neuroscience of High Impact Learning“), and one was from WebJunction (“What Would Walt Do?: Quality Customer Service for Libraries“). I expected that the “What Would Walt Do?” training would be the most helpful, followed by the “Write it Right!” and then the “Neuroscience of High Impact Learning”. Of course, owing to this week’s theme of expectations, I was completely reversed!

To start with the highlight, the “Neuroscience” webinar discussed how our brains process information and how that impacts learning and training. I have a Psychology background and always had an affinity for neuropsychology, so I admittedly attended this webinar because it spoke to that interest of mine. I’m hesitant to accept many of the claims about how our brain impacts our lives, there is still too much unknown and too many processes that act together. Fortunately, this presentation focused on a more holistic perspective rather than saying things like “The amygdala is the part of the brain for emotions.” The gist of the presentation was the AGES model (Attention, Generation, Emotions, Spacing) and how each of those four things impact learning. My biggest takeaways from the session were: I need to foster opportunities for insight in my classes, engage students so they can create solid mental maps, give students time to process big ideas, space their learning, and use social experiences to create positive emotions in the students. The concept of focusing on less big ideas and over a longer time coincide with my thoughts in my last post about developing a more long term model for our instruction.

The “Write it Right” webinar was good because the presenters provided an outstanding handout with a checklist of their seven step process for designing learning materials and a chart outlining myriad techniques/learning experiences and what type of information they are best used to teach. Their seven step process is similar to other reading I’ve done on developing instruction, but the simple presentation is useful for a quick refresher. I love the learning techniques chart and I picked up some new ones that I’d like to try in my classes. They talked about how to combine activities to meet different information needs and that learners with prior experience should be engaging in different activities than beginners. I will definitely be using their chart as a reference in my redesign process.

As I mentioned before, I thought the library-focused “What Would Walt Do?” presentation would be the most useful. Although I found the others more productive and in line with my current needs, it was still a good experience. I was a little frustrated because the presentation was very theoretical without much specific detail in how to implement some of the ideals in our libraries, but I still got some good takeaways. This presentation made me very glad to have attended a Black Belt Librarians workshop because safety and how to present rules was a big theme. The other big theme I noticed was expectations, and the need to set up our environments in a way that fosters good customer service. I think our library could benefit from thinking about our users’ needs and being more willing to put ourselves in the mindset of a student when we interact with students. One technique they discussed was analyzing your most frequently asked questions and then figuring out how to make those questions less likely, or how to give staff a framework for dealing with them. The key to all of this seems to be authenticity, and in truly respecting our patrons and fellow staff members.

I try to foster this in myself by taking notice of and reflecting on positive moments in my job. Yesterday a student who I helped last week broke out in a huge smile and waved at me when she saw me walk by. She didn’t need help or have a question, and she seemed genuinely glad to see me. In that moment I felt like a library rock star, and moments like that affirm that I made the right choice of vocation. When I notice one of my co-workers doing something well I try to make a point to let them know. It helps me to appreciate them, and I hope it helps them feel good about what they do.

As a final word on expectations, you can expect one more blog post from me next week. I’m working Monday night but I’m not sure if I’ll be inspired yet, but I aim to have something posted by Thursday. After that I’m officially on vacation (heading to Curacao!) and won’t be back in the library until January 2nd, hopefully to resume a normal blogging schedule.

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