28 March 2013

Those Who Can't, Teach


I never agreed with that silly saying Those who can, do, those who can't, teach . . . that is, until I became an Occupational Therapist and realized that I was re-teaching many of my patients fine motor skills . . . I once had a burn surgeon tell me that I was the only OT in the world with butter-fingers.  I think he was right.

But these days, motor-skills is the only subject I'm teaching.  Since starting again with my assistant, B., we've hit the ground running with his training . . . well, I hit the ground and he's running (so I don't have GROSS motor skills either . . . gees people!  No need to rub it in!).

B. is super curious, and my botched-French gets the job done . . . most of the time.

Since B.'s English is limited to useful conversational phrases such as 'Good morning!' 'I am fine!' and 'I like my coffee with milk, no sugar', we have to stick with learning materials that are en français or else easily mimed.

My fallbacks are the French translations of the Anatomy Coloring Book and Frank Netter's Orthopedic Anatomy . . . apart from those two, we pretty much make it up as we go.

As a hardcore kinesthetic learner myself, I try to make our lessons as hands-on as possible.  But, it's a little tricky trying to teach the relationship between the position of certain bones when we're all wearing skin.

B. and I have been working on memorizing the anatomy of the foot since before I left for my six months in the States.  He gets most of it, but there's a row of important little bones that he just couldn't seem to remember.  And then there's those tricky 'superior-inferior' and 'anterior-posterior' and 'medial-lateral' relationships.

Each time I'd think he's learned it, we'd have to go back to square-one.

'You know what we need?' I asked him one day.

He shook his head . . . probably because he was thinking 'A new teacher' and is just too nice to say it out loud.

B. with his new friend.
'A skeleton!'

He blinked at me, convinced I was out of my mind.

'If only we had a skeleton, you could SEE these bones in 3D . . . I'm pretty sure it would make all the difference!'

He nodded to make me feel better.

'Where can we get a skeleton?' I thought out loud.  'We could go down to the cemetery!' I joked.

His eyes bugged out of his head, 'You'll have to do that alone!' he said, afraid I was crazy enough to do it.

'You know,' he added, 'Tagama [the local Christian primary school] has a skeleton.'

'WHAT!?!?!?'

Flag raising at the start of the school day.
I organized with a teammate for me and B. to tag along one morning.

Armed with my coloring book and a roll of masking tape, I started giving B. anatomical landmarks to identify.

He got them all [mostly] right . . . having a 3D model was exactly what he needed to understand what was going on beneath the surface of his skin.  We bended and twisted the skeleton's limbs (some of which were no longer attached to his well-utilized-body) and talked through the diagnoses of certain patients.

B. was overflowing with questions and each answer only served to bring out more.

He is so hungry to learn . . . not just how, but why.  He wants to know how the body works and heals; he longs to learn why we can predict outcomes from our treatment sessions; he yearns to understand the methods behind my [seeming] madness.

The problem is, I can't always keep up . . . my brain is working in three languages and often I mix up the English names of muscles with the French . . . or I think I'm explaining innervations, and I say that the nerve 'fires' the muscle and now he can't understand why I'm talking about setting flames to myself . . . or some days I'm just too hot, tired, and cranky to care about his learning process.

I promise I didn't break it!!
But he keeps plugging along . . . patiently taking in everything he can.  Tolerating our cross-cultural interactions like a champ; laughing with me--at least as much as he's laughing at me.

And some how it works.  Whether or not we have our own set of plastic bones . . . or a great set of multilingual text books . . . or even an entire faculty of PhD prepared professors.

All that to say, if we pull it off in the end, it was only by a miracle!


1 comment:

Leah said...

Pouring your brains and heart into teaching him will do more in the long run than if you yourself saw 20 patients a day! I know you know that, but just wanted to send an encouraging reminder. Keep up the great work!