This past month I’ve been on a teaching rotation called “Learning to Teach: Teaching to Learn” or LTTL for short. This is a mandatory course for all fourth year students at Albany Med and it’s been a valuable experience! We had interesting workshops about how to give feedback and how to have the most useful sign-out rounds. But we spent most of time in the clinical competency center teaching clinical skills to first and second year students.
At first I was worried that the students would be very competent and I wouldn’t be able to think of any feedback to give. But I needn’t have worried! I didn’t realize just how much progress I’ve made as a student until I watched the fumbling attempts of the first and second year students. In order to give good feedback, I made sure to take plenty of notes about each student. I even jotted down quotes from the things they said so that I could comment on them specifically. It was tiring work watching six or seven students conduct histories and give them each feedback over the course of an afternoon. The more feedback I gave, the more I was able to hone my delivery. I learned to watch the students’ body language so that I knew if I was overwhelming them with feedback. Sometimes this was hard because I had many things I wanted to go over with the student! I also learned to solicit the students’ own thoughts about their performance. That way, when I had a few very under-confident students who thought they did everything wrong, I could buoy their spirits by reminding them of all the things they did well.
Another role we served in LTTL was teaching the first year students how to perform a neurological exam. This was another activity I was a bit nervous about because the neuro exam can be challenging and consists of many steps, more than any other exam the students learn in the first year. Fortunately, I just completed the neurology clerkship so my skills were sharp. I walked many students through the steps of the neuro exam. I was particularly useful to have around for teaching the students about deep tendon reflexes as mine are fairly brisk. Whenever the students had trouble eliciting their partner’s reflexes I had them practice on me – just so they could be reassured that they were hitting the right spot with the hammer!
Interview season is now well under way and LTTL has come to an end. But even though the course is done, I think that I will remember the lessons I learned while teaching.