Medicine is about the ability to perform… the ability to take intellectual knowledge and put it in act for the benefit of the patient. What a student knows is immaterial if he or she is unable to put the knowledge into action. Where teaching is about the dissemination of knowledge, coaching is about enabling performance. My philosophy of teaching is not to teach, but to coach. Teaching provides knowledge; coaching enables performance.
In the Teaching Teaching (Coaching) class offered to fourth-year students and residents, I begin with asking the students to recognize the four developmental phases of a teacher:
My father was a prolific coach, and while he has not been a part of my life for twenty years, I do remember this important lesson of coaching: to establish greatness in a player, you must begin early in his career, and you must give of yourself completely to ensure his development along the way. In my teaching career, I have been through all four levels, and still I struggle with keeping myself from being swayed by popularity and concerns for my career (phase II and III). When it is all said and done, it is my wish that my coaching career will be characterized by my father’s first principle: I want to be able to say that I devoted all elements of myself to the development of my students; my success will be measured by students’ ability to perform. I wish too that I can find peace with this goal, such that I am content with no recognition of my efforts, save the satisfaction of knowing that the world is a better and healthier place because of what I enabled my students to do.
Perhaps this narrative will give you an idea of how I have tried to accomplish this goal, for even though the different courses I teach seem disparate, there is a common vision that holds them all together.
I evoke the idea of coaching and teams not only because I think it is a better paradigm for an educational venture with performance as its ultimate goal, but also because at the end of all training, medicine is about being a part of a team. I think this team philosophy that underlies each of my courses and teaching ventures not only makes for better physician “players,” but more importantly, it makes for better physician “team players.”
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org