Don’t skip over getting ready

When I was a teenager, my Dad had a poster in his high school vice-principal office that featured a picture of a bird’s nest with blue eggs in it. The caption read: “most of life is getting ready.”

I really didn’t like that poster because it was all about patience and I was all about getting on with the next thing. I was always about what comes next: finish high school, go to university, get the job.

It took a long time for those lessons in patience to sink in and for me to accept that much of life is getting ready. And a lot of the getting ready is hidden, behind the scenes, like what’s going on in those blue eggs in that poster’s nest.

It’s a lot like how we spend our summers when we’re involved in teaching that follows the traditional academic year cycle (which excludes our clerks clerkship faculty who learn and teach year-round).

At UG, especially for the upcoming pre-clerkship academic year, we spend a lot of the summer getting ready. The Education Team, Course Directors and teaching faculty are looking at course evaluation reports and looking at where improvements and changes are needed. The Curricular Coordinators are getting everything set in MEdTech so things run smoothly. And a multitude of other behind-the-scenes support team members are quietly getting on with getting ready. While the end results of all this preparation are evident, the tremendous amount of work involved usually isn’t.

For planning purposes, we need to think ahead, look at the big picture and always be thinking of the next thing. But for teaching and learning, being in the moment matters, too. And, sometimes, you’re in the moments that are about getting ready.

Sometimes we dismiss the “getting ready” stage as a holding pattern, as mere waiting. It’s not the “good stuff” or the “important stuff”. But getting ready is every bit as important as what comes next. Without getting ready, the good stuff can’t happen.

Think about the last big celebration you took part in (maybe for a birthday or special holiday). Did it involve presents? Did you take some time to find the perfect gift, picking out wrapping paper and bows, maybe a special card? Did the recipient take a moment to appreciate that effort or tear right in? Maybe you were the recipient. Did you savor the moment, or dive right in? My Mom always insisted we read the card first, how about you? Regardless of slow savoring or exciting unwrapping, it was a special moment, that made the preparation – the getting ready – worth it.

Sometimes getting ready is taking a breather (as we hope our pre-clerkship students are doing with their summer!) or augmenting skills, and sometimes is doing all the necessary preparation to make things run smoothly for the “big” event. It’s important to recognize that, from a pedagogical perspective, this getting ready – either course prep, or “introduction to” instruction – isn’t wasted time, but necessary steps along the way.

So be in the moments of getting ready.

Meanwhile, we’ll get back to work reviewing course evaluation feedback, revising preparatory materials and SGL sessions. Looking at which learning event worked well and which need some tweaking and which need a major overhaul. Are assessments well-mapped to learning objectives? Is the rubric clear or can we improve that? What about annotating those objectives….

(And, as always, if you’re in need of help with any of the above, get in touch. We’re here to help).

 

Posted on

This post is about nothing

I discarded quite a few topics for this week’s post as I didn’t want to “waste” a key topic on the “downtime” for many of our faculty and students of the summer break between semesters (excluding all those students and faculty involved in Clerkship, of course).

Sure, I could write about learning objectives, and active learning strategies, or assessment tools and rubrics, but these informational items would likely be missed by quite a few people off on summer pursuits.

And, really, I want you to miss them as anyone’s holiday break (however long or short) should be used to pursue as little as possible. A few years ago, when I was teaching at Loyalist College, I had students ask me what I wanted them to work on over a holiday break. It turns out my colleagues had given several detailed assignments. Firmly believing in the need to relax and recharge, I told them I wanted them to sleep in and eat cookies for breakfast. (I got pretty good instructor evaluations that year; I hope it wasn’t just about the cookies).

So for this post, I thought to myself: “I should write about the benefits of doing nothing”. A short Google search later, I’ve discovered this is hardly a unique idea – and there’s evidence-based research to back up these benefits.

In fact, in a 2014 Forbes article, Manfred Kets De Vries pointed out that “slacking off and setting aside regular periods of ‘doing nothing’ may be the best thing we can do to induce states of mind that nurture our imagination and improve our mental health”.

An Australian blogger drew attention to a study by Bar-Ilan University that demonstrated that daydreaming correlates with performance. “They found a wandering mind does not hamper the ability to accomplish a task, but actually improves it by stimulated a region of the brain responsible for thought-controlling mechanisms.” (Read more about that study here.)

Other research points to relaxing (i.e. doing nothing) being good for your heart, fighting the common cold, maintaining a healthy weight, sleeping better, and contributing to improved mental health.

Pico Iyer, author of The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere wrote of the virtue of doing nothing in a 2014 CCN article. He noted: “It’s an old principle, as old as the Buddha or Marcus Aurelius: We need at times to step away from our lives in order to put them in perspective. Especially if we wish to be productive.”  (Watch his Ted Talk, where he emphasizes the benefits of stillness, here: https://www.ted.com/talks/pico_iyer_where_is_home)

So, the next time I post, I’ll have more tips and tools for your educational toolbox. In the meantime, focus on wellness and, well, doing nothing. You can start with this slide show of Ten Ways to Enjoy Doing Nothing.

Posted on

Dynamic Learning Environments – not just for academic centres

Several years ago, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) developed and publicized a statement on the learning environment.

 

The statement nicely articulates three key points about effective medical learning environments:

  • Medical education and exemplary patient care go hand-in-hand.
  • They feature a pervasive atmosphere (dare I say “culture”) of mutual respect and collaboration on the part of all involved in the delivery of patient care.
  • Everybody involved is both a learner and a teacher, and feel free and comfortable in both roles.

Lofty goals and expectations, to be sure. In fact, the skeptical among us may consider these to be merely aspirational statements, expressing unachievable ideals.

I’m pleased to report that this is not the case. In my experience, I often encounter learning environments that are nicely meeting those lofty goals. Most commonly, these are in large teaching hospitals where available resources, space and academic focus combine to produce close-to-ideal learning environments. Recently, I had the opportunity to see similar success in a much smaller site.

I attended the Third Annual Georgian Bay Healthcare Wellness Research and Innovation Day held at the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital.

 

Organized by Collingwood Chief of Staff Dr. Michael Lissi and supported by Dr. Peter Wells and Program Manager Michelle Hunter of the Rural Ontario Medical Program, this year’s theme was Geriatrics and involved a thoughtful panel discussion followed by a series of very well-qualified and engaging speakers.

 

The hospital cafeteria, re-purposed for the occasion, was standing-room-only as about 150 folks from all areas of the health care community, as well as interested local residents, packed the room and contributed to the discussion. The sessions were live-streamed to several sites.

In addition to the presentations, hospital corridors were used to feature about 60 posters featuring studies carried out by local practitioners and learners working in the community.

I was there largely because two of our students who are in Collingwood completing placements.

Meds 2019 students Daniel Weadick and Claire Tardif

Claire Tardif and Daniel Weadick of Meds 2019 are, by all accounts, both enjoying the experience and learning a great deal. They’re integrating well into that local learning environment, working with multiple physicians, other learners and health care providers. Dan summarized it all rather effectively. In his own words “there’s a lot to like”.

 

For me, the whole experience was a little surreal. Having grown up in Collingwood and worked in the various jobs in and out of the local hospital, I found myself reviewing posters and meeting local physicians in the same rooms and corridors in which I’d made deliveries and portered patients many years ago.

 

 

 

Medical education theorists have described the learning process in many ways, but all agree that the knowledge and skills

with conference organizer and Collingwood Hospital Chief of Staff and surgeon Dr. Michael Lissi

learned through largely classroom and simulated settings are insufficient unless integrated and applied to real patients. That process of application must be progressive, beginning with highly supervised settings where learners can begin to experience clinical care and decision making in safe and nurturing environments, while at the same time allowing them to progress to increasing levels of independence as their skills and growing confidence allows. For the medical student, highly-structured and learner-dense academic hospital settings are certainly valuable and essential, but may provide unintentional “ceilings” to professional development, and limit the appreciation of continuity of care that occurs outside the specialized ward and is so critical to patient outcomes. Community placements in smaller centres can complement their learning by providing that context.

 

In the end, medical education is fundamentally about providing and identifying environments where motivated, talented students can encounter generous and welcoming practitioners in settings that strive to provide excellent patient care and learning for all involved.

 

I’m pleased (and perhaps a little proud) to say that my home town is one of those places.

Posted on