Thursday, August 23, 2007

Orientation Jitters

It's time to welcome another class of medical students to our program. Every year we hold a series of events during the Orientation period and every year I try to clear my schedule as much as possible in order to attend as many events as I can.

I really get a kick out of it all -- from the moment that the first student strolls up to the registration table, to speaking to the class for the first time during one of the welcoming lectures, to the informal gatherings that are arranged between the faculty and the students.

I also enjoy seeing it all coming together as I do play a role in organising some of the events (and that organisation starts eight months prior to the actual events, so it's a nice feeling of completion when it does all roll out exactly as planned).

The students are excited. And nervous, as Unprotected Text attests to. I pick up on the excitement .... and I am also nervous. Very nervous, in fact. In past years it made me nervous to be nervous because I couldn't understand where it was coming from; I have, after-all taught thousands of medical students in a number of capacities and so should be quite used to speaking to classes.

However, here's the rub: I don't yet know this class. At all. If I've learned one thing over the years it is that each medical class has a unique collective personality. Sometimes that personality is evident from the first time that I speak to the class during Orientation, other times it develops as I spend time with the class. And, just as with individual personalities, the collective personality of the class can be one that clicks with my personality and teaching style, or it can be one that simply doesn't get me at all (and vice versa).

Hence my nervousness with speaking to each new class for the first time. Can I crack jokes (i.e. will they laugh?) or is this a serious class? Are they open to being called upon for questions that I ask? Will they ask questions? Will their questions be ones that I have heard before or will they stump me and I won't know the answer(s)? Are they a respectful class? Will they trust that I (generally) know what I'm talking about or will they question who I am to be teaching them the things that I do? And what about in the small group PBL environment? Will my facilitation style work for them or will we butt heads over process?

Welcome, first year medical students. I am quite sure that we will get along just fine. However, until we have established that as fact I will overlook your nerves if you will be kind enough to do the same for me. Here's wishing you a very successful first year.


adam said...

Hey Dr. K, it's nice to see it from your perspective. I guess it's kind of intimidating standing up there having a bunch of strangers judging your every move and quickly making an impression of you before you even open your mouth.

Anonymous said...

nice to hear I'm not the only one!

i've never really thought about classes having personalities, but when I look back on it there have been some that were reluctant to answer questions, and others that were always asking them.

i hope im in a jokey, respectable class. (Theres nothing more annoying than sitting in lectures with people talking around me and over the lecturer)

Pieces of Mind said...

Any kind of beginning can be a little nerve-wracking. I think some of it is the uncertainty... we just don't know what to expect.

If I were smart enough to be a medical student, I'm pretty sure you would be my favorite instructor. :)

I like the new look - very clean and refreshing. ;)

I'm glad you're blogging again about medical school - yours is an important perspective that really adds to the dialogue.

medstudentitis said...

Nice to see that some of the Docs were as nervous as we were. I'm super excited to meet the new class at my med school because I interviewed a bunch of them (well, if they accepted). It will be fun to see how their personalities all gel into a new creature that is the class of 2011!

Kendra (The IslandMedStudent) said...

Every new class does indeed come with a new batch of personalities. I love seeing all the new students showing up on our island. They all look so fresh and new and excited to be here. It's only sad sometimes to realize that some of them become bitter along the way. But it's nice to hear that it's not only the students who get nervous sometimes, but also the faculty. :) Good luck on your next year ahead!

Beach Bum said...

An interesting post...

As a performer, I have found that every audience is different. And while there are certain generalizations that can be made (Sunday matinees are DEAD), people can and will surprise you.

I hadn't thought of that in terms of teaching. Most of my teaching experience has been in small group or one-on-one settings. But I can see how a large class could have the same sort of audience dynamics.

Now you've got me thinking about my own class; it's serious, not afraid to ask important questions, but doesn't ask too many silly ones, generally respectful, and somewhat wary of a new prof.

Thanks for an interesting post!