They stood on their boards in waist high waves within a couple minutes of my surf lesson. It was magic to see the look on their faces as their arms were wildly gesticulating in the white water. All half dozen of them. Even chilly 60-degree water didn’t seem to matter.
Teaching is fun. And this was certainly a highlight of my week spent in Outer Cape Cod with two-dozen relatives from Connecticut and New Hampshire. Great weather, 80+ degree-days, and the warm sand and grassy bluffs typical of east coast beaches.
An Academic Life
I certainly learned a thing or two about teaching while training as a resident at the University of Pennsylvania for six years and then again during my tenure as a full time faculty member at the University of California San Francisco for almost fifteen years. My experience teaching college and medical school students, residents and fellows has led to a relatively simple teaching philosophy, the secrets to which are below:
- Teachers are born and not made. More work than talent is needed to be a great teacher.
- Plant the seed of knowledge and let it grow. Don’t try to plant the whole tree. Curiosity is incredibly fertile soil.
- Be an example, or mentor, to those taught. Practice what you preach and your teaching will have far more impact.
- Take some time to put on the student’s shoes (figuratively of course) to better understand from whence they come and to optimally stimulate learning.
- Analogies work wonders. Bring home points with everyday examples.
- Storytelling is better than almost any other media imaginable for information retention. (If you haven’t guessed yet, this is precisely the modus operandi of this blog)
From the Cape, I am off to New Orleans to teach an annual board review course to 600 urologists. This teaching scenario presents its own unique challenges including conveying an abundance of critical information (enough to fill a book) in a very short time frame (an hour). My goal: keep it short, keep it sweet, tell some stories and make it memorable. I’ll post the lecture slides this week and see what you think.