There is a lot we can--and should--learn from how knowledge is conveyed in professional fields different from ours. A constant reflection on what we do and what others do is a requirement for teachers.
Abraham Verghese writes about the rapid infusion of big data into the medical profession, and the essay gives me a lot to think about. Verghese, who I referred to in this post seven years ago, I came to know of through a book of his ... that was more than 20 years ago. He is one of the Indian-American physician authors who seemingly have time for everything! And now the guy has even wandered into writing fiction. An ultimate Renaissance man indeed!
Anyway, in this recent essay, Verghese writes about the practice of medicine:
True clinical judgment is more than addressing the avalanche of blood work, imaging and lab tests; it is about using human skills to understand where the patient is in the trajectory of a life and the disease, what the nature of the patient’s family and social circumstances is and how much they want done.In our profession, too, we deal with data about students like the graduation requirements and GPA. But, working with students is not merely about looking up that kind of data and "solving" their problems. Well, that too. But, often, it is above and beyond those mechanics. It is about listening to students. And to "genuinely care."
... that patient’s greatest need is both scientific state-of-the-art knowledge and genuine caring from another human being. Caring is expressed in listening, in the time-honored ritual of the skilled bedside exam — reading the body — in touching and looking at where it hurts and ultimately in localizing the disease for patients not on a screen, not on an image, not on a biopsy report, but on their bodies.
Earlier this week, as we wrapped up a nearly 30 minute chat about her academic plans, the student said "thanks for your advice every time." I was slightly taken aback. She continued with "you always listen to me, and think about what will be good for me."
I thanked her. I wished her a good summer.
Yesterday, it was deja vu all over again with another student. At the end of our meeting, she put her stuff in her backpack, picked it up, and then said, "thanks for listening to me and always putting myself in my place and thinking about what will be good for me."
I thanked her. And told her that it was pleasantly strange that she was saying something identical to what another student. Her response was even more interesting for me: "Most other faculty I have taked to seem to be single-track and they only talk about their own stuff."
I agree with Abraham Verghese: Caring is expressed in listening