“Whatever You Decide To Be, Be A Teacher”

I recently had the opportunity to speak about medicine as a career at a local high school. It has been many years, and even as I narrow my fields of practice, I remain passionate about doing what I can to enable kids to make informed choices about their careers – and so that those who go into medicine, manage to get through it.

But this is less about me, and more about the final speaker, a plumber and businessman. To the school’s credit, invited speakers ranged from professions to vocations to trades, not conforming to the idea that university is the golden standard for every person in determining their future.

This speaker shared about his own trade, but also about apprenticeships and other trades. His conclusion was a perfect summation of what (I believe) modern careers should be:

Whatever you decide to be, be a teacher.

This rings so true to my own philosophy, especially in light of young doctors being reliant on the willingness of their seniors to teach them. As I become entrusted more and more with training the younger crew, I become all too aware of the responsibilities of a good teacher. I realise how easy it is to be annoyed, and how often poor performance in students and young doctors is rewarded with withdrawal of attention, rather than a “remedial” kind of approach.

I have come to realise how hard it is to teach while burnt out.

And I start to understand just a little about the bad treatment we got as students, from young doctors who were really just a few years senior to us.

Having graduated from a system that so overworked its students, and knowing that I never want to do that to other students, I sometimes think I would rather not have students around than risk them feeling used. But I will always believe in teaching. So that has been my challenge: teaching, even if students seem uninterested. Because sometimes medical students do seem uninterested, but I wonder if perhaps that is more out of fear.

Be a teacher.

Be teachable.

And then teach, once more.

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