Reference and Instruction Librarian
It was one of the dozens of classes I taught that semester. Everything was chugging along at the usual pace for my library instruction sessions and right before I began the database activity, I had a Eureka moment. “Do students even know what I mean when I say database?” I thought to myself. I remembered my first days at college and realized that at some point somebody had to teach the concept of a database to me, I wasn’t born with that knowledge. So, I took a breath and broke down the concept of a research database. By comparing databases to Netflix, since both are paid subscription based platforms that provide content, I hoped this everyday connection would make the scary world of research a little less threatening. As I wrapped up my analogy, I made eye contact with a student in the middle of the room. That’s when I saw it, like a sunrise, like a light bulb being switched on, like a lego clicking into place; comprehension dawning in his eyes. “Ohhh!! That makes sense!” was all he said, but it made my day. From that point on, he was engaged and smiling. He was one of the first students to answer questions and his participation encouraged his peers to volunteer as well. Before he left the instruction room that day, he thanked me and told me that he had learned a lot.
It had been such a simple thing, defining a word I used a million times, but it made such a big difference. As instructors, we need to step back and remember that before our students can become experts they first have to be taught the basics. Looking at my lesson plan from the student’s point of view made me realize how much I was assuming they knew about doing research. If we care about our work as teachers we should value our students enough to help them make those beginning connections, even if it feels redundant. Chances are our students have always been in a class with too many people, in a school that underperforms, or in a situation where no one believed in them. When we show the students who have been left behind that we care about their learning, we help fulfill the mission of LCC as an open- access admissions institution. We provide the chance for ALL students to learn and succeed.