“I want to be a comfort to my friends in tragedy. And I want to be able to celebrate with them in triumph. And for all the times in between, I just want to be able to look them in the eye.” – Josh Lyman
“Cowbirds in Love” is rapidly becoming one of my favorite webcomics for three reasons.
1) It’s published every day, satisfying my compulsive need to check for new comics.
2) It’s written by a med student, so sometimes the jokes are painfully geeky and in my language.
3) Where else can you find Catholicism and musical theatre spoofed simultaneously?
I’m taking my first “online class” this semester. Actually, they’re hybrid classes. We meet for two weeks face to face, then spend two weeks posting responses in “conferences” online.
Now, the conferences are understandably pretty demanding. You have the world at your fingertips, and almost a week to post responses to the given questions, based on the posted material. In theory, it makes sense. In a traditional class setting a professor gives lecture, then encourages responses, or debate from his or her class. In this format, the material/lecture is posted, students (assumingly) read an study said material, then post responses in the aforementioned conferences. The “midterm” is take home, and open boook and worth 20% of our final grade, while the final is face to face, and worth 25% of our final grade. 20% of our final grade is earned through our participation in the conferences, we’re asked to post one original thought on each topic, and give two responses or questions to a peer’s. The remaining 35% of our grade is based on a paper, and two case studies, all which are of course turned in online.
I can’t decide whether this is cheating education, or actually a more effective model. In essence, the onus is entirely placed on the student. Outside of the papers, and case studies, everything is graded by a 3rd party, virtually eliminating the “they’re a nice kid, the numbers say C, but let’s give them a B” factor that often comes into grading.
But, we’re encouraged to use the internet, the library, email our professor, in effect the worlds resources to do our work. And that’s more realistic of the real world I suppose. We would want a doctor performing major surgery to have every resource available to him to ensure his brain didn’t fail him at a critical time. We would certainly want our broker to do some extra research on a company before dumping all our investments into it. Growing up with a teacher, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “how would you handle this situation?” asked to a peer in the field.
Maybe this is the way a face to face class works as well, and I never realized it. Or maybe this is genuinely a better model. I truly don’t know. But the online class has taught me how to research, ask questions, and debate without feeling like I’m “cheating”, while the traditional setting always seemed to want to make me memorize material, then recall it at a given point in time. But while the online class requires me to be more disciplined, the material is unquestionably more involved, requires more research, and more thought, the end result is a more polished understanding of the subject matter.
Who knows, maybe it’s cognitive dissonance, me trying to justify a decision that’s lead to an untraditional education. But I’m learning more, and enjoying learning. And I’m going to have a degree by this time next year.
I haven’t been feeling very useful lately. I mean, I’m finally starting to get it together when it comes to studying for exam and classes (thank goodness for the Pass/Fail system up til now), so the actual coursework is going better. I actually came in with an average score on my past few exams, which was a step up from last block.
But when it comes to the “real” stuff, the part with interacting with patients, I feel as if I’m floundering. I’ve inexplicably become more hesitant when entering a room. I dread trying to get a medical history in front of one of my mentors, and I find myself apologizing all the time. During my last hospital visit, so many family members tried to add to the history I was taking that I ended up standing helplessly, asking occasional disjointed questions about pain and mobility until my mentor took pity on me and took over.
It doesn’t help that I just read Atul Gawande’s latest book, “Better,” all about what makes certain doctors really great, how the medical profession is improving or can improve patient outcome, and where we still have a long way to go. It was a fascinating book that looked at advancements in medicine from hand-washing in hospitals to standards of care in the military to treatment of patients with cystic fibrosis, and throughout the book, people came into focus who were not satisfied with the way things were, who believed that medicine could do better, and who worked insatiably until they proved they were right. And I find myself thinking, where’s my hunger? What if I’m never going to be a great doctor?
What if I’m just going to be an okay one? Is that enough?
So I keep working and try to find a focus, a hunger. So far, the closest I’ve come is when I’m working on my proposal for working overseas next summer, but that’s not exactly a here-and-now application of passion. Oh, and I’m getting really good at knitting small toys that make my friends smile, but I have yet to figure out what specialty that fits…
Then came today. My roommate announced that our apartment was in a state of serious neglect, and each of us needed to take action. She was right, as judged by the chore chart on which no boxes had been checked for the month other than “take out trash” and “empty dishwasher,” and I took on the living room, starting with vacuuming. Except that almost as soon as I’d started, I accidentally sucked up a large piece of yarn that my kitten had strung around the legs of the piano. The vacuum cleaner started screeching like an angry owl, so I turned it off and pulled the red yarn out from the rotor, hardly noticing that the line was actually feeding out of the side of the vacuum cleaner. I turned it back on. Angry owl still hadn’t left. I looked at the rotor, puzzled. No yarn in sight. Then I realized that the angry owl was, in fact, an angry motor, and the odd smell in the air was something burning. Dang it.
An angry motor is un-useable, so I figured I had nothing to lose by taking the whole thing apart.
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“Rain turns the sand into mud
Wind turns the trees into bone
Stars turning high up above
You turn me into somebody loved
Nights when the heat had gone out
We danced together alone
Cold turned our breath into clouds
We never said what we were dreaming of
But you turned me into somebody loved”
I have two “drafts” saved at the moment. To the blog. I started them late at night with visions of grandeur. But “flash thoughts” and ADD got in the way. They’re good though, good premises I mean. I’ll finish them. Eventually that is. Just like I finished my degree, or that relationship, or my certification, or made that trip, that phone call. You know, eventually you get around to the important stuff.
“I’m two cups into my coffee break,
I’m sitting alone in the café from the way.
Reading all by myself.
I’m turning off my cell just to breathe,
’cause everyone I know keeps calling me.
And I just need a little time…”