I’ve personally experienced the power of effective teaching and learning to change a person’s state in life and help him create a better future. I grew up in a small village in Cameroon. I am where I am today because a teacher took the time to teach me how to learn. That took me from the bottom to the top of my class within a year and allowed me to win scholarships to continue through grade school when my family couldn’t afford my tuition. I’ve never been the same ever since. Today, I’m a physician in the United States simply because of that. That’s why I’m passionate about learning and teaching. It’s also why I believe that effective teaching can change the world. Anyone can, through learning, change their condition and their place in life.
As a passionate student of the learning and teaching process, I’ve come to believe that effective teaching has five components. First, effective teaching is built on effective learning. To be a great teacher, one must first be a great learner. Second, effective teaching is learner-centered, not teacher centered. As a teacher, my role is to know my students, understand where they are, what kinds of knowledge and gifts they have, and come up with a strategy for how to help them move from where they are to where they need to be. To do this, I must be responsive to the audience and inspired by the audience’s interests, and, passions. Third, effective teaching is creating the right environment for learning to occur. Learners are like plants; they are full of potential and will blossom if they are placed in the right soil and climate that addresses their unique individual needs. Fourth, effective teaching is inspiring and empowering greatness in the learner. I believe that deep within all human beings lies the capacity for greatness. My job as a teacher isn’t merely to inform but to inspire that greatness and empower people to achieve it. Finally, effective teaching is modeling. Great teachers model curiosity, excellence, and passion for learning.
As a resident, I have given several talks on different topics such as Sepsis, Anticoagulants, and others. Each time, I invest significant amounts of time interviewing specialists about how they approach the subject as well as researching numerous resources. I also focus on giving an excellent oral and visual presentation. As a result, I’ve gotten excellent reviews. That has allowed me to model excellence, as my colleagues hearing these commendations have come to me for help with their presentations. When I went from the bottom to the top 1 percentile nationally on my in-training exam, it inspired many of my colleagues. That’s allowed them to trust me to teach them not just issues that involve content but also mentor them on how to learn and study during residency. Additionally, as a senior resident, I participate in teaching junior residents during board reviews and inpatient rounds.
No matter where teaching is done, I’m guided by the words of William Butler Yeats who said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” As such, one of my main goals in teaching is to inspire a lifelong curiosity and search for knowledge. I want to help learners believe that they can move beyond their current barriers.