Monday, July 5, 2010

The full circle

Almost anyone who knows me knows that I went to college to teach English and coach tennis. Those were the two areas of high school where I was moderately successful. I say this because in a high school class of 720 students there are some very high achievers. Fifteen of us grew up to be physicians. There is a least one federal court judge, several lower level judges, and about a dozen attorneys. Many of my classmates are teachers at various levels. In fact 82% of us finished at least 4 years of college and earned a degree. This is from a public high school in the western part of the state. College was expected and most of us found a way to go.

I did not begin my college career believing I had what it takes to get into, let alone finish medical school, so I just thought I would teach. Teaching looked like a good life and I had plenty of role models after 12 years of elementary through high school education. Yet, when I switched majors, earned a degree in biology with a minor in chemistry, applied to medical school and was rejected, I was shocked at what a difficult job teaching high school chemistry happened to be.

For just over 9 months, I read and re-read the chemistry text books. I organized class notes, prepared lectures, made pre-lab quizzes, and graded papers. Even more challenging, I dealt with the behavior of students who were 4 to 6 years younger than myself. "How did the world go downhill in such a short period of time," I often wondered. When I was a student we were never like these students. Or were we? I do vaguely remember the reason I had such a keen interest in college chemistry was because I learned none in high school. Was it me or was it the teacher?

At any rate, just before Christmas of that fateful year as a high school chemistry teacher, when I learned I had been accepted in to medical school, I wept. I cried not for the fact that on my second try I had been admitted into this elite institution to study for a different profession. I cried because the first 4 and one half months of teaching had exhausted me. Now realizing I would not have to continue teaching high school chemistry, I thought I could make it through the rest of the school year.

With this background, you can imagine my chagrin when I receive the residency program's teaching award for this past year. While I was overwhelmed at the thought that twenty residents voted to give this award to me, I was truly overcome when I received a standing ovation from the guests at the graduation dinner. The icing on the cake of this honor was having one of the just graduated residents tell me, "You were just the right amount of hands on and let me do it myself. I felt like I was doing it my way but you know what I was doing and you were close enough that I could call you if I got into trouble."

The past year, removed some thirty-three years from my first year teaching experience, has been an incredible joy. What I have gained from working with and teaching these young physicians as they move toward their goal of becoming obstetrician-gynecologists has more than compensated for anything I lost leaving my private practice. I feel as if I have come the full circle, arriving at a place much like the one where I began. And I realize that having traveled here, the journey has made me appreciate it so much more.
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1 comment:

Former Texas Clergy Pal said...

That is awesome. And I am NOT one bit surprised. I am certain you are a fantastic teacher.