Learning is a lifelong process in which you encounter teachers and educators of all kinds. Some educators are etched into our memories, whether it be as a result of a pleasant experience or otherwise. I used to wonder why people would often differentiate between the term master and teacher. My thoughts were that a master was an exemplary form of teacher. Why create another word for the same thing, I left it at our willingness to be creative in the way we describe our surroundings. That was until a recent experience that contrasted two people of the same profession taught me otherwise.
During an anaesthetics rotation, I came across two educators with drastically different levels of competency in teaching. The first anaesthetist seemed to be quite competent, however as a teacher it was a different story. Initially I didn’t realise because I’d had no anaesthetics training prior. It was only until the next day that I met with ‘the master’ that I noticed the other was lacking.
The first experience was more a recount of what he did on a daily basis and operational matters that I wasn’t really privy to. Not to mention he lost me in the unnecessary detail for a student of my level and spoke to me for a whole of 10 minutes, if I’m being generous. In 2 hours of being in the operating room, he dedicated 10 minutes to teaching me what in the end was pretty useless information. In fact, the attending surgeon noticed my lack of activity and made a passing comment about ‘my thumbs working much harder than they should.’
Now, if I contrast this with my next anaesthetics training session, boy did my little brain get a shake up! Let me put it to you this way, I was in theatre for approximately 4 hours, in that time I think my mind rested for about 15 minutes in total and I wasn’t even complaining. I have never been so tired after a teaching session, but also so satisfied. It was a weird and wonderful journey in which he picked my brain and brought out archives I’d forgotten were even there. They had been covered in dust and he was able to wipe that thick layer off it and put it to good use. He went as far as taking me back to year 11 and 12 chemistry, which I thought would never be useful in real-life. In summary he took it back to principles.
In the image below, is a very good summary of the individual that I was grateful for having taught me:
When first learning anything, the foundations are the most important part of any subject as you will always refer back to them. This anaesthetist hammered that home. He said to me, ‘Stop, stop, stop! You keep throwing buzzwords at me, go back to first principles’ he repeated over and over. It took my thick head a little while to register, but when it did it was a light bulb moment. This is how any form of learning should be, the foundations are established and then built on.
The actual content of what was taught is not so important, the method of teaching is what I wanted to highlight. This kind of masterful teaching is available within every industry and even within specialisations. However, this level of engagement during a lesson is rare and not to be taken for granted. It takes a unique kind of teacher, a master.