Catching the Curse
Updated: Nov 25, 2018
It was 2PM on a cool October afternoon, in a dark moldy lecture hall, with 43, 20+-year-olds looking at me when I first realized I was a terrible teacher. I should correct that…probably only about 15 were actually looking at me. The other 15 were on Facebook or Instagram and the other 13 were sleeping. The sleepers weren’t even trying to hide it. If there wasn’t a strict attendance policy in place, I’m pretty sure my numbers would have dwindled by now. Who gives the 2-3:30PM time slot to a first-year faculty member with a 100% lecture-based course??? At least that is what I kept asking myself. I truly believed that the senior faculty were running an experiment on me…let’s give her the worst possible time and in the darkest room we have and see if she survives.
The fall of 2014 was my first semester going from clinician to educator and I was slotted with the exciting job to lead Medical Pathology on Tuesday and Thursdays from 2-3:30PM. As a Board Certified Sports Physical Therapist I felt less than qualified to teach such a course as Medical Pathology, but none the less, I was PUMPED!!! There wasn’t anything else I would rather be doing then teaching. I felt the call to teach during my residency training 5 years prior to my actual start, so the excitement of actually fulfilling a dream was overflowing by the time I got my start. I spent the whole month of August prepping. I read the text, reviewed the already prepared powerpoint slides, practiced what I was going to say. I was ready! The students…they weren’t prepared for my ineptness.
It was in that dark room on that October afternoon that I realized, I had to do better. I love the profession of physical therapy, everything about it. I wanted the students to share my passion, my excitement for the profession. How could they not find patent ductus arteriosus invigorating or the picture of third degree burn exciting??? Why wasn’t I getting the standing ovations or even just the nodding of heads when I scanned the room?
I had fallen into the first trap of teaching…the curse of knowledge. Chip and Dan Heath explain this trap as, “Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.” When I first read Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, I was in shock….the curse of knowledge, yes, that is what I had! Like it was a communicable disease I had lectured on the previous week…I had a high fever and was really suffering. I didn’t realize some of the terms I was using went over their heads. I was speaking PTese and they weren’t PT’s yet. My content was also poorly delivered, both by my delivery and my powerpoints. If I was going to reach these students and engage them in the learning process, I had to get the antidote. I had to break the curse. But how? As a DPT student, there wasn’t a course on breaking this curse. In treating thousands of patients, not once had I cracked the code. I decided to begin a journey of discovery and growth and want to share that journey with you.
Can you relate?
The next several posts I will focus on ideas I have found to help me break the curse.
Engaging students in the classroom is actually simple…it’s just not easy.
Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2010). Made to stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck. New York: Random House Books