People come to teaching through a variety of paths. That’s especially true in medical education.

One thing that most educators – at any level – have in common is a sincere desire to teach. And, generally, most educators get some enjoyment out of it. But what happens if that’s not the case? What if you’ve been told you must teach, or (perhaps more disheartening), what if you’ve enjoyed education assignments to this point, but teaching just isn’t fun anymore?

Even if it’s something you have been passionate about, it can be a challenge to stay engaged year after year. Even the most dedicated educators can lose steam along the way. (These suggestions aren’t focused on the level of burnout. That’s another very serious topic for another day. This is more about a “general malaise” – you know there’s something not working, but you’re not quite sure what that is.)

If your enthusiasm for your teaching assignment is on the wane, and it seems more chore than challenge, here are five possible interventions to consider:

  1. Re-focus on what attracted you to teaching in the first place. (Or, if you’ve been assigned to teach, think about what you enjoyed about learning).

What brought you to teaching in the first place? Is it sharing knowledge and expertise? Working with future colleagues? Exploring new technologies or teaching methods? Is it the place, the people, the content? Sometimes we drop our favourite things by accident. Is there something missing now that you can reintroduce to your teaching practice?

  1. Team up with a colleague.

Despite the many faculty we have, teaching can seem a lonely enterprise. Preparation is very often done solo and it’s you standing alone with the class or group of students. Consider partnering with a colleague to prepare together and compare notes after teaching. You don’t have to be teaching in the same course or area – it’s staying connected and sharing viewpoints that can help.

  1. Swap assignments.

If you’re able to, consider swapping teaching responsibilities with a colleague: if you’ve always focused on pre-clerkship teaching, maybe trade with a colleague who has focused on clerkship instruction. If you’ve been an FSGL tutor, swap with a Clinical Skills one. The shift in perspective could help you both (and enrich students’ experiences, too). If you pair this with #2, you can help each other through the transition. When you swap back the next year, you’ll each have new tools and a fresh outlook.

  1. If you can, step away for a little while.

While this is not always possible, if you can take a break from teaching, it can reawaken your enthusiasm. Time away can help you remember exactly what it is you love about teaching and give you space to address those areas that have become chores. Sometimes absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

  1. Come talk to me or other members of the Education Team.

We may be able to help pinpoint specific areas of your teaching assignment that are dragging you down and brainstorm some solutions. Sometimes talking it out can provide its own insight. We don’t have all the answers, but we can certainly help look for them. Reach me here: theresa.suart@queensu.ca