Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back Up There

Some time ago I described how I taught a class of speech pathology students and proctored their final. It was a wonderful, enriching experience which awakened a desire I did not realize I possessed: to teach. With that opportunity, I found that imparting knowledge and answering questions enriched my own abilities. Challenge is good.

This past summer, my mentor/former clinical supervisor asked if I would be willing to supervise other speech students during their semester of clinical audiology. The university has a full room equipped with sound booth, video otoscope, and a myriad of middle and inner ear test equipment. The room was familiar as I had spent many hours there calculating stats and writing abstracts for various research projects in which I have participated. Speech path grad students are required to become proficient in the administration of a basic battery of hearing tests. I was there to supervise, to teach, to observe, to guide.

I had 5 enthusiastic and sharp young women who took initiative and impressed me with their quick studies and deductive reasoning. They were all a bit leary about tugging on ears (as was I, originally), but they became more confident as time passed. Two of them brought their mothers as patients. This turned out to be quite educational as both had significant hearing losses in one ear. Without turning this into another entry of Your Audiology Tutorial, a unilateral hearing loss requires several techniques for accurate testing. Namely, the better ear may often help the impaired ear and a process known as "masking", which keeps the "good" busy with noise while the poorer ear can be tested in isolation, is necessary. Masking strikes fear and/or dread into every beginning student of audiology. It is a complex, initially confusing process. Even after doing this gig awhile, it can be daunting. My students, for being beginners, did just fine.

As I approached this task back in August, I thought of the time I was on the other end. I had a rocky odyssey through grad school that bears examination. I had some preceptors who were quite tough. One in particular was very hard on me and we shared more than one uncomfortable meeting. There were certain things she did that I felt were very inappropriate, such as bawling me out in front of patients. I will go into more detail about this at some indeterminate time. Perhaps after the key players in that saga are dead.

I was determined NOT to be R. Lee Ermey in the clinic. My students were nervous initially but I am a (IMO) very affable chap and I'm there to help, not tear down and berate. That style baffles me, whatever the scenario. I'm also patient, which is essential if you plan to teach.

Mistakes were made. Those are the best teachers. Many wise people have said as much in famous quotage. I was very pleased with my class and was a bit sad last evening as I sat alone in the clinic after having just finished our last meeting. Each student had to perform various parts of a hearing test on me for their final. All did very well. I sat and was dazed by how quickly the semester went. Always does. Funny to think in terms of "semesters" again, too.

What a rewarding experience. Perhaps I'll get to repeat this. I have thought many times about a full-time position in my greying years. Time will tell.

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