When teaching isn’t fun anymore…

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to When teaching isn’t fun anymore…

  1. Sheila Pinchin says:

    Hi Theresa: You’ve given us some great advice! Even the best teachers get jaded sometimes. I have 2 suggestions: one is to read something about teaching–an article, or a book, that has new ideas and strategies in it to add to your “teaching backpack”. My go to book is What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain. I also really like looking at the 12 Tips in the journal Medical Teacher and the Really Good Stuff section of Medical Education journal. These have short, pithy and great ideas to spruce up teaching.
    My other suggestion is to rest…when you’re away this summer, take time to reflect, refocus and do the things that Theresa has suggested here.
    Sheila

  2. Leda Raptis says:

    In my case it is none of the above. What is disheartening is the new funding model, that makes us look for any possible excuse to inflate marks to attract more students. Students with an A in Genetics (a prerequisite for my course) write in a midterm stuff like “the mRNA protein infects the plasmid”. No amount of help would help them scrape by. Or, assignments submitted online, with no presentation of any kind, when we have NO clue who wrote it, or who is being marked… Or, online exams (not any harder than in-class exams) with no proctoring at all. This must be stopped before more damage is done. The value of Queen’s degrees is at stake!

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