Saturday, May 30, 2009

Enthusiasm makes all the difference

Throughout my academic career, I've taken a fair number of classes from professors who seemingly couldn't care less about the material that they had to teach. Those were the toughest classes to make it through, let alone earn a decent grade. Its hard to care about the material when the professors, who were supposedly experts, didn't care. My undergraduate physics professor comes to mind. I have no doubt that he did at some point love physics, but he was clearly PISSED that he had to teach it at the undergraduate level. That was a tough class. His teaching energy was all kinds of whack.

Every now and then, though, I was lucky enough to get a professor who truly loved the subject they had chosen to devote their lives to. My exercise physiology professor, Dr. George Brooks, though despite being damn near older than dirt, LOVED the things he taught us and made lectures and labs exciting. I wanted to learn. I wanted to earn good scores on the exams. Class was fun. It wasn't really work.

Recently, my pharmacology professor, Sally Brooks (hey, maybe it has something to do with the name) reminded me just how important enthusiasm is for a teacher to be truly effective. She loved what she was teaching and it rubbed off onto myself and the other students. Most of all, she had a unique way of explaining new concepts:

"I always say that Prozac likes to talk. No action. No, thank you! No sex here! Just talking. Lots of talking." This was her way of explaining that sexual dysfunction was one of the more unfortunate side effects of anti-depressant therapy.

"For all beta blockers we'll be discussing, just remember that they end with 'Oh Laugh Out Loud'. Or for all of you that aren't as versed in internet speak, that's -olol."

This next one is my favorite, but it's a bit vulgar when taken out of the medical context it was intended for, so try to keep it clean, mmmmkay...

When asked why vaginal yeast infections are common with antibiotic therapy, she replied with this gem: "Think of it like this...Normally, there's both bacteria and yeast cells living in the vagina. The yeast live over here in their little section of condos, and the bacteria live over here in separate condos. When the bacteria is killed off by the antibiotics, that leaves a whole new section of condos vacant. The yeast see these vacant condos and say, 'Hey! More space to live!', and so they multiply and take over the condos...and so on, and so forth."

Yeah. Freaking hilarious. But it made sense. I looked around the room and saw people nodding with sudden understanding. That's the sign of an excellent teacher. If people fail to grasp the original concept, re-word it and find different ways to explain it until people do.

I learned this highly valuable tool during my early athletic training days and would frequently integrate it into my high school class when the kids just weren't getting it. It also demonstrates just how well one comprehends the subject matter at hand.

Sally Brooks teaches several classes in Contra Costa College's nursing curriculum and the fact that I would get to see her again is a big part of my decision to apply to this particular school. I really feel like I could learn a lot from her. Her enthusiasm makes learning a pleasure.

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