Teaching To Learn

Most people look back at their childhood with considerable fondness and feelings of nostalgia. I’m sure everyone feels that it was great when you did not have any worry’s or responsiblity’s as a child. What I loved the most though was being amazed on a daily basis at learning new things. There’s a common saying, ‘you learn something new everyday’. As a child you learn a multitude of new things everyday, but often fail to appreciate the significance of what you’re learning. As I get older I find that I have to work harder at learning something new everyday but I definitely appreciate what I learn more. Also when I do learn something new it doesn’t come with the feeling of awe that I used to experience when I was a child.

I guess that’s where my love of education came from. I always loved being in school and learning new things. I would attribute any academic success that I have had to the fact that I loved learning.

As a teenager most people don’t like being in school and resent their teachers, probably because it represents a figure/establishment of authority at a time that most kids are trying to establish their independence. I didn’t hate being in school as a teenager but the negative attitudes of some students definitely rubbed off on me and this did diminish some of the joy of being at school.

My love of education is one reason why I wanted to study medicine. Medicine is 5 years at university and then a life long career of learning in order to become a better doctor. You can never know everything about medicine so there will always be something new to learn. Medicine is a fast paced and dynamic subject where new research and discoveries are being made almost everyday (whether we know about it or not). You can read about the other reasons why I wanted to study medicine in my previous blog, Motivation and Medicine.

Teaching forms an integral part of the medical profession. A doctor is expected to teach the people around them on a regular basis. Doctors teach their peers, other doctors, both junior and senior. They also educate other health care professionals during team meetings, such as nurses, physiotherapists, speech therapists etc. I really enjoy being part of a team where there is a big focus on teaching and the consultant is always asking people questions in order expand everybody’s knowledge, and subsequently improve the level of care that is being delivered to the patients. I am currently on a paediatric placement where everybody is very keen to teach and the consultant is great because he always wants you to know what is happening.

Doctors have a responsibility to educate patients about their disease and teach them how to best manage their condition. Being able to explain medicine in terms that the general public can understand is a vital skill. I have seen doctors do it really well but have also seen doctors who leave their patients more confused about their disease. If you can not explain something in simple terms then it displays a fundamental lack of understanding in that subject area. Medicine as an academic profession has an ethos which is to share knowledge and only by sharing knowledge can we advance, this is true of any area of science.

During my gap year I discovered a passion for teaching. This was through tutoring as a part-time job. During secondary school if you had asked me if I ever wanted to be a teacher I would’ve told you, “never in my life will I ever be a teacher” but an opportunity presented itself and I was not going to let it pass by.  So I have now been tutoring for the last few years and I must admit that I love the experience of teaching. I participate in peer teaching opportunities at university which I absolutely love doing.

I love teaching because of the buzz that you get from it. The moment that you see something click in the head of the person that you are teaching, that is a moment which gives me a real kick. I experience this feeling a lot, especially when I teach maths.

If you don’t get a kick out of teaching that doesn’t mean you should never teach. Through teaching you can develop invaluable skills and I know that through tutoring I have grown so much as a person. What do you get out of teaching? As I said before, being able to explain a concept to someone in simple terms really helps to cement your understanding of that subject area.

It forces you out of your comfort zone and anything that pushes you out of your comfort zone is a good thing. There have been many times when I have been asked odd questions or i encounter someone who doesn’t understand what I’m teaching them. That forces me to change how I am explaining something or try to incorporate some sort of analogy. It teaches you how to be dynamic and adapt to different situations and people. Children and teenagers are the harshest critics and I have experienced kids telling me that my lessons were ‘crap’. I ask them why they feel that lesson was not very good and usually get a brutally honest answer back. But I welcome criticism because how can I improve if I don’t know what was bad or went wrong? Criticism is awesome when it is constructive.

I have had to learn how to deal with disruptive kids and situations when it is difficult to capture the attentions of a group of children. It has taught me how to be creative and deliver information in different ways.

Teaching is a very rewarding activity. As I have mentioned, I get a real buzz from teaching. I am also helping to mould the minds of young people and get them to expand their horizons of thought. They often ask me for advice on applying to university or about potential career pathways (medicine in particular) and I feel in such a privileged position to be able to help guide their big life decisions. Albert Einstein said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” I love science, when I read about scientific discoveries in the media and it blows my mind on a regular basis to see the leaps and bounds being made. I try to bring that passion and enthusiasm to my the students I tutor.

Take home message of the blog: If you want to learn more about yourself then teach. Teaching will help you to grow your knowledge, understanding and skills. There is a famous idiom, “Those who can, do; those who can’t teach”, this is absolute rubbish! Aristotle said “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”. Whether you teach in a formal capacity as a school teacher or in an informal capacity , I believe there is nothing more worth while or rewarding than sharing your knowledge.

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