No matter who or where you educate, here are 7 ways you can be good to yourself and your learners as we begin the Academic Year.
Somehow, unbelievably, the new Academic Year is starting. If you’re an educator in any environment—academic, non-profit, corporate, health systems, community-based organizations—here are 7 ways you can be good to yourself and your students or learners in Academic Year 21/22.
Hi everybody. I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel. This is 10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication from Health Communication Partners, a health-equity focused education and communication consultancy. That’s right, consultancy! If you need expert help on any topic in this series including targeted vaccine communication, visit healthcommunicationpartners.com.
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Now there are many educators in the audience to this show. I love you, I see you, I hear you, I love hearing from you. And you have been on my mind. Over the summer, it seemed all the educators that I spoke with, and all the ones that I see on social media, that there was a current of this feeling of “you got to be kidding us!” Like we’ve just been through the most outrageous, unbelievable teaching situations that any of us could possibly imagine, and barely kind of got our feet underneath us again, and now the new Academic Year is starting. So I wanted to offer you some gentle reminders, some permission, and some ideas that I’ve gathered through my career as an educator.
Okay I’m going to start with Number 1: bring your expectations down. The Educators I know tend to be perfectionists and people-pleasers, myself included. So here’s your reminder, and I’m reminding myself, that done is done! Hey, good! Done is freaking great! So be as gentle as you can be on yourself. Give yourself all the breaks. Also, keep your students all the breaks that you can. Remember that they’re coming back also just reeling from all of this. And you know we’re all still trying to figure out what it’s going to mean to mourn everything that we have, that we have to grieve. So give yourself all the breaks.
Number 2: I believe that teaching any course is itself an act of hope. So here’s an invitation to go back to the heart of it. The heart of your teaching, whatever that is for you. Whatever it is that speaks to you. Whatever it is that’s joyful in your teaching. The reason you got into this to begin with. Let yourself take a moment and reconnect with that.
How? Gonna give you a suggestion! Number 3: journaling. It’s hard to find the signal in the noise, even in the best circumstances. And a writing is a powerful form of thinking. When you combine reflection and writing, you’ve got the potential to see your life a little bit differently. There is an episode that I did with Dr. Ann Ancona of Kent State’s College of Nursing. I’ll link to that in the show notes because Ann and I show you ways to combine reflection and writing, whether it’s just for yourself or if you’re gonna ask your students or learners to do the same.
Number 4: I remember my earliest mentor telling me, many years ago, that my students would learn far more from who I’m being then they would from anything that I was teaching. And so I wanted to share that with you– obviously I still remember it. I occasionally do one-off episodes in this series, and one of the kind of special topic episodes I did awhile ago it was on mentoring in the Health Professions. And every once in a while it’ll pop up in my metrics as people rediscover that episode. So whether you are a mentor or you have a mentor or you want a mentor, go ahead and check out that episode. Link in the show notes.
Number 5: I’m inviting you more less to have compassion for yourself. Because it’s a good idea overall, and also because it’ll make it more possible for you to have compassion for others, including the learners. The opposite can also be true. If we have a deficit perspective on ourselves, it can show up as a deficit perspective on others. There’s so much cultural pressure toward having a deficit perspective on ourselves, even without the pandemic and all of its additional pressures and stresses. So if you catch yourself with that deficit perspective, which– you listen to the show, you know what one of those is, I’ll put the link in the notes. Listen to yourself, watch yourself catch a deficit perspective toward you in yourself. Catch it any interactions in your classrooms, wherever you teach. Catch it in your practices. And then you can disrupt it.
All right, Number 6: I’m giving you permission to do more peer learning. I’m inviting you to do more peer assessment. Yes, it is hard to let go of control when you’re teaching. Especially if, like me, you have these perfectionistic or people-pleasing tendencies I was talking about in number 1! But let yourself let your students take charge for a while. Take charge of their own learning, right that’s popular phrase. But learning is social! Your students are going to learn from each other. So let them. Devise as many scenarios as you can. Better yet? Ask them to devise those scenarios with you. Students learn by doing. We know this.
Number 7: tell stories! Yeah, tell stories. Even for just 5 minutes it can be storytime. Now of course I’m going to tell a story. Way back in the start of my teaching career, well not really the start, I was a few years in, because it took me some bravery to make this move. It was the spring and I was writing a cover letter for a summer job. And I was frustrated and it wasn’t going anywhere. And so I brought it in to my students and I was like, “Can you help me with this?”
And that one moment of vulnerability changed my teaching forever. I’m not exaggerating this, either! It changed my relationship to my students, my relationship to them as writers, I let them have more control in the classroom, I really–I changed the way I taught after that. [And I didn’t even get that summer job!] And that particular event also led me to write the first journal article I ever wrote, which got me over my fear of writing for a wider audience. So yeah, it really did change my teaching, and it got me to do more peer editing and peer assessment, like I said in Number 6. So let your let yourself or let your students tell stories as part of your teaching.
So I hope these are helpful. And if you’re an educator or you’re responsible for training in your context, I’m making something special for you. So again whether you’re in academic or corporate or nonprofit or health system or community-based organizations, I’m really excited about what I’m making for you. I’m going to be sharing this with you soon. This has been 10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication from Health Communication Partners. Music and audio engineering by Joe Liebel. I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel.