Challenge me

posted Sep 24, 2011, 8:34 PM by jj pionke
There have been some posts floating around on the internet that have talked somewhat extensively about the debate going on about whether a person needs to actually get an MLIS degree of some flavor or not and that many MLIS programs aren't really all that challenging.  I didn't think much of this debate, but like a song stuck on repeat, I've kept thinking a little bit about it here and there.  

I firmly believe that the degree is needed.  On the other hand, I also firmly believe that education in general is needed and that we should all seek to learn more throughout our lives, but that is totally a post for a different day.  For someone like me, who has never worked in a library, learning the theory behind librarianship and getting practical experience are incredibly important.  I could have gone to a regular MLIS program.  Instead, I came here to the School of Information at the University of Michigan because I wanted to be challenged.  I wanted to be different.  I don't just want a grounding in librarianship.  I want a grounding in information in general.  As our libraries, at all levels, continue to change, being able to at least understand the language of change is important and if I can understand the language of change, I can implement changes too.

Anyway, one of the things that struck me about the debate was the fact that many students don't feel challenged enough by the courses that they take.  I can understand that.  I am in a how to teach class that is being taught in a way that does not challenge me whatsoever.  Honestly, it's making me crazy.  I have seven years of teaching experience.  If the course was structured as a pedagogy course, I would probably get some really valuable stuff out of it, but it's not and so I am getting nothing out of it.  In the classes in my program, I find the Information Literacy class to be extremely easy, again, because the course is aimed at teaching info lit and I have a lot of teaching experience.  However, the teacher understands this about me and has laid out some more interesting and difficult course work and I am honestly, extremely grateful.  The project she has me working on not only engages me but is something I can use in my teaching, online and face to face.  I doubt that I will ever stop being a teacher so creating something new that I can carry with me wherever I go is pretty awesome.  When I am done with it, I will share, I promise.

Seek and ye shall find.  You have to ask for more challenge and if the professor isn't willing to give you more challenge, you have to challenge yourself.  In my how to teach class, the professor, as a final project, has asked us to write a teaching statement.  I have an up to date teaching statement and have had one for years.  As an adjunct, you never know when you might be unemployed so it is imperative to keep everything up to date.  I could just turn in my statement and no one would care or even notice, but I would know and I would notice.  I've decided to take my statement to the teaching center here on campus to have it read over.  Ironically, the teacher of the how to teach class approached me after class last week and stated that he thought it would be interesting if I could work in a comparison of community college versus university teaching.  I pushed back a bit stating that the topic isn't necessarily really appropriate for a teaching statement, but I will write a comparison paper for him if that is what makes him happy.  I think it will be interesting to say the least and maybe he is finally beginning to understand that his class isn't that challenging for me.  Though I had already decided to challenge myself by either tweaking my Teaching Statement or completely rewriting it in a sort of just for fun and I should turn in something that is 130% not just 100%, the fact that he at least minimally recognized that I might need something more, is good.  Far too often we get caught up in homework and work and kids and friends and family and a zillion other things and we forget who we are.

I came here to be challenged and if that challenge won't come to me, I will have to go to it.  I could just sit back and do easy course work, but then I would be bored out of my mind and I am tired of being bored.  I am changing careers because I was getting bored and I was unhappy.  I realized this morning that I have smiled more this week than I have in possibly years and it is because I genuinely feel happier.  I feel like I can breathe.  I feel like I am finding myself again.  I feel challenged and what's more, I feel like the people around me are encouraging me to be challenged, that they want me to grow.  Maybe not all of them are committed to that idea, but enough of them are, including fellow students, that I feel like not only am I in a supportive environment but that the world isn't as terrible as it was even 3 months ago.  Oddly enough, being here, even with the frustrations, is restoring my faith in humanity and the world that I live in.  For me, that is what it means to be challenged - it means I am finding myself and growing and it is exactly what I need in this moment.