Learn one, Teach one …
The time honored dictum, in medical practice and especially in the case of surgical skills is to “learn one, teach one”. It essentially implies that the best way to learn a new technique or skill or hone your own abilities in a particular expertise is to teach another one the same and how true it is for any other branch of teaching or even life, for that matter…
05 September is traditionally commemorated as “Teacher’s Day” in India. As an Army brat, I had the opportunity to move wherever my father got posted and consequently I saw nine schools in twelve years of my schooling. Later, getting through Medical School and getting a little more “educated’, I met and was influenced by several who taught me.
Teachers are a different breed altogether and as Joyce Meyer remarked, “Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges”. I remember with such clarity the oddities and idiosyncrasies of teachers; what they wore, how they talked and how they conducted themselves but more importantly what they represented and what they meant to me in my very impressionable years.
Some of them were friends; some were a shoulder to lean upon when things did not seem to be going well; some others were a sounding board with whom I could discuss things which I was reluctant to talk about at home. Some were examples of what I ought not to become or how I ought not to behave in life When I was confused about career choices and which way I was headed, a Biology teacher (who was also the prettiest teacher who ever taught me) showed me my strengths and made me think about Medicine as an option. In large measure I joined Medical School thanks to the confidence she inspired in me! Much later, a Professor in Medical school exposed me to the pleasures of using a good fountain pen and high quality ink- he did not really teach me how to go about it. But I would see his daily ritual of meticulously filling up his pens with ink and follow it up with exquisite penmanship. My handwriting is not as good as his but my love for pens and ink and writing has not diminished over the last nearly three decades. I agree so strongly with Henry Adams when he remarked, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell when his influence stops”.
For many years now, I have been a teacher as well and I have had many medicine residents pass through my hands. I realize how my own teaching styles and methods are so strongly influenced by my own professors and teachers. I realize how fortunate I was to learn from them; I realize what a privilege it is to learn under the wings of great teachers. I cannot probably thank them enough. It would be special if even one student of mine remembered me twenty years down the line warmly and if I may be optimistic, appreciatively!
The art of teaching is truly the art of assisting discovery. It is perhaps the greatest of arts since the medium is not water colors or oil or charcoal but the human mind and spirit!! It could not have been put better than this and to quote Christa McAulife,”I touch the future. I teach”.