Reflecting on my journey, it was almost five years ago that I was given the opportunity to teach at the dental school. At the time, I had been in private practice for almost fifteen years. At the time, I didn’t know if I could teach….But I always remembered how stupid I felt in dental school…how scared I was to approach each instructor not knowing if he or she will embarrass me. Or if the instructor will mess up my previously approved treatment plan. Or if someone will come after me about proper infection protocol or if I haven’t returned my instruments to the dispensary on time. Unfortunately, the lists go on and on and these fears consumed me in dental school. It was not a very positive learning experience.
But then when I pursued my postgraduate training in Boston and Pittsburgh…I had a totally different experience. I had a nurturing learning experience where senior residents were expected to teach and guide the junior residents. Many of the mentors took the time to show me and explain to me how each procedure was to be performed….all of them made me a better clinician. Mind you, many of the issues in dental school still existed but I learned to redirect my energy so I can focus on my clinical learning.
This year, after being in mostly didactic teaching, I made it a priority to try one-on-one clinical teaching. Luckily, there was an opportunity in clinic where I can do more of that. It was a little frustrating at the beginning because I didn’t have the experience to offer clinical teaching. It was also frustrating because there were always equipment issues or supplies issues. But after awhile, I have developed a way to assess each students’ clinical knowledge and skills at the beginning of the session and vouch to offer each student a positive learning experience at the end of the session.….I really want my students to experience first hand what I experienced while I was a graduate resident…that it was ok not to know…it was ok to ask the instructor to show them how to do a procedure….I also understand that each student learns differently. Some students just want to dive right into the procedure. Some students are a little bit more cautious and want to take things slowly. Whatever their learning needs, I tried to support that as much as possible. It was not always easy…because I learned that I need to let go and be vulnerable as well. Sometimes it was hard to see them make the very mistakes that I made before in spite of my warning….Or sometimes I was overly ambitious and shared too much information when they are not ready to absorb that material yet. As a teacher, there was a lot more need to evaluate the individual student on the spot and to redirect my methods of teaching to ensure it was an valuable learning experience. Whatever it was, I hope the students walk away from the session, not in fear, but with joy with learning.
Thanks for reading!