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To teach or not to teach?

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

You’ll agree when I say your time is valuable.

You have to balance your time between revision, keeping up with social events, working so you can afford to keep keeping up with events and boosting your CV with extra-curricular activities.

From experience, juggling these commitments is overwhelming. As a medical student, I wanted to get involved with something. I wanted to develop transferrable skills but also have something to brag about on my CV. Whatever I chose had to require only a few hours a week. In the end, I chose teaching.

Why teach?

Imagine. You’re the student on placement. You walk onto the ward. You see an F1 and they teach you about things you need to know for your exam. You stare at them in awe wondering how they became so smart. You put them on a pedestal and you walk away hoping that one day you can be like them.

The truth is you’re not far off from them. You already have the knowledge. You can get to that delivery stage. You just need somewhere to start.

So what might you gain from teaching?

  1. Developing your knowledge: This is pretty self-evident; YOU become the expert

  2. Being more confident: By practicing answering questions, you become self-assured

  3. Being flexible in your approach: With short-attention spans and different range of abilities and capabilities within the audience, you learn how to adapt the information you deliver to your target audience

  4. Applying creativity to your work: Whether it’s making a snazzy presentation, incorporating images into your delivery or finding new ways to get the audience involved, this beats someone snoring away in the back due to boredom.

  5. Learning from your weaknesses: Taking on verbal and written feedback such as what went well and what could go better.

  6. Learning to Reflect: You can use your teaching to boost your portfolio. Constantly having to reflect in your portfolio is going to be the bane of career so if you find something easy to write about, it’s one less “chore”.

  7. Collating evidence: Gathering written feedback and reflecting on it can be used at interviews for specialty training!

  8. Cheap: All the information is available in libraries and online. You don’t need to buy materials.

How do I teach?

Developing your teaching skills doesn’t take long nor do you need extraordinary skills to do this. So here’s a few tips to get you started:

  1. Peer groups: If you’re revising for OSCEs, get into groups, choose a topic and teach each other applicable material. It’s a nice way to filter the “nice to know” information from “need to know," keeping it succinct.

  2. Organise teaching sessions for small groups in the year below: Advertise it on the MedSoc page, choose a location. This makes it easy revision for your exams, and there’s always an opportunity to get feedback straight away.

  3. Local groups: I volunteered with a medical society. You don’t have to. The aim of teaching is to deliver a topic you’re passionate about and get everyone engaged. It doesn’t matter what you teach or where you teach it, as long as you’re passionate.

  4. Reflection: Don’t forget to reflect. Ask for written feedback which you may use as evidence later on. You can use this in interviews and for your portfolio. Portfolio is going to be a huge part of the rest of your medical career, so it’s important to undertake things and reflect on what you learnt from doing it.

It’s a perfect opportunity to find YOUR way to teach.

Teaching may not be for everyone. The only way you’ll know is if you try. Be confident. You can’t go wrong, you can only learn from it.

Ammena Zahabi

Interim FiY1 Doctor.

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