Today I had another opportunity to get out of my office and interact with the students. I spoke with an English class, freshman composition, talking about the library's resources, Interlibrary loan and what we can do to help the students in their research. I always appreciate the chance to do this, if for not other reason than it give me a chance to talk about a subject that I enjoy. I cannot, however, help but notice that not all of the students react with the same enthusiasm about the library that I have.
I see a remarkable contrast from one class to another in their reactions. Just last week I met with two classes, back to back, giving the same lecture on the same subject to both. The first group seemed to be paying attention, asking questions and answering the ones I throw out to give them a chance to interact with the material I present. The even laughed at my few laugh lines. I have had to monitor myself to resist the urge to 'play to my audience' and try to be funny.
The second class had the same number of students, but they spoke not a word. I was only a few minutes into my lecture when I realized that this group was not as 'live' as the previous one. This kind of class is why I don't try to be funny. It's dreadful when you pop a knee-slapper and it dies in the first row. No questions were asked or answered and a dull silence for the rest of the lecture.
Now which of these two groups got more out of my presentation? I couldn't say. Hopefully, they all got one or two bits of useful information about the research process and I pointed them towards new and appropriate research resources. At least the classroom teachers get to give them quizzes to find out if they've learned anything. Once in a great while I have a student drop by my office to ask for help, so I must at least that often make a positive impression.