I once heard a quote attributed to Nora Roberts that has stuck with me. I can only paraphrase, because the interwebz does not agree on the wording or even where it came from originally, but it goes something like this: “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.”
Truth, that. Nearly every time I sit down to write something, I have drag myself to the keyboard and repeat this quote to myself. I bribe myself with promises that no matter how bad the word-vomit is, I can’t fix what I haven’t written. And, more than likely, after I’ve finished word-vomiting and get a good night’s sleep, the word-vomit isn’t quite as bad as I’ve imagined. I mean, it’s still pretty bad, usually, just not entirely as bad as I feared. I feel the same about instructional design.
It continually surprises me how long it takes to plan one 50 minute lesson for the first time. This is due in part to the size of the staff here. Because my position is both the instructional designer and the instructor of 80% of the classes, and my predecessor isn’t around to advise, there isn’t much help available on what’s been done in the past in similar situations. Plus, as a brand new librarian, I don’t have a personal instructional repository of activities and approaches that I can tear apart, put back together, and fill in the gaps. I’m starting with a blank page. Is there anything that stares like a blank page? That mocks more heartlessly?
My process looks something like this:
- Procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate. Writing blog posts is very effective for this.
- Become overwhelmed as the class date approaches. Check the library’s Facebook page every 5 minutes, hoping that someone new liked it. (Unlikely.)
- Decide that if I’m going to be on the internet anyway, I might as well do some Google searching to see if anyone else has ideas for how to approach this particular instructional problem.
- Google search returns loads of LibGuides or lesson plans for elementary school children and not much else.
- Fret. Take a walk.
- Thumb through the stack of professional books on my shelf. There’s a bit of help, but nothing really suits.
- Stare into the middle distance for a solid 45 minutes.
- Spin around in my chair a few times.
- Get up and go next door to run some ideas past a colleague.
- Finally sit down and open Evernote where I cut and paste intros and conclusions from previous classes. There. Now my page isn’t blank anymore.
- Start to fill in the gaps. Finally start working in that mental place where someone could walk up behind you and scare you to death without even trying.
- Work, work, work.
- End of the day. Go home.
- Come back the next day. Hey! My page is not only filled, but it’s not entirely crap!
- Fix, fix, fix.
Slowly, I’m building a list of classes and approaches. I’m filling pages. I’m getting to the place where I can evaluate what’s working and what needs to be changed. I’m approaching editability. Slowly.
Incidentally, I can’t recommend Char Booth’s book Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning more highly for new teacher-librarians. It’s an invaluable resource and help guide with loads of suggestions for other reading, too. It’s extremely readable, and there are many, many suggestions that are immediately helpful. Go get it.