Imitate Your Job

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Mar
  • 30
  • 2006

To work on bedside manner and how to handle the stresses of the job, medical schools apparently hire actors to play parents. Students then need to break bad news and help the parent cope with the tragedy. I watched a woman who I thought honestly suffered the loss of her son to cancer blubber her way through a fake consultation with doctors as they told her that there was really nothing left to do for her child. The New Medicine, a show on PBS, discusses connections between the mind and the body, showing how our mental state can influence our physical well being. On a show that examined the impact of stress, the announcer said that the doctor was the one under stress, that the crying woman was paid to perform.

And I thought to myself, “that’s brilliant!” One doctor took the completely wrong approach and distanced himself, acting almost robotic. Another doctor asked the fake mom questions, listened to her, and asked about the rest of her family, how the loss hits them. Through closed-circuit TV, the medical teachers were in another room watching the doctors and I’m certain that the video tape was talked over with the students. This is just one more reason that the medical profession is the model of a professional community.

If future teachers had to interact with archetypes of the educational system (the hard-case student, the unsympathetic colleague, the enabling parent), even in a role-playing situation, the chance to apply their theoretical learning to seemingly-real circumstances would be one more thing to help create a highly qualified teaching force. This not only develops the practical skills of how to address the situation, but it also encourages an amount of reflection on how to appropriately deal with the stresses of the job.

Something that my local state college credential program started last school year, in a subconscious effort to mimic the medical profession, student teachers take over a full-time teaching position for 2 weeks. Phase 2 student teachers are those who teach 2 different classes for an entire semester, usually with 2 different teachers. At some point during phase 2, that student teacher will take over 5 classes for 10 school days.

I’m not sure that I’ve heard of a better move in credential requirements. The more we can put student teachers into positions that imitate the actual pressures of the job, the better we’ll be. Hey, haven’t I said this about high school students, too? At every level of education, we have to remember that the only reason we’re sitting in a classroom and the only reason teachers should be teaching something is for practical application to life outside of the classroom.

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