Those who can, do; those who can't, teach. (I believe George Bernard Shaw is responsible)
I've mentioned this phrase once before on this blog, on a post for the now sadly defunct Handover Carnival. I despise the phrase. Mostly because I come from a family of teachers. Some of my best friends are teachers. Some of my best teachers are friends. I accidentally came across a teachers' forum where suggested responses to this outrageous phrase ranged from the dirty look to the violent retort. Easily my favourite, however, was one clever comeback:
Those who can, do; Those who can teach, do wonders.
As the third in the series of suggestions and advice, particularly to the newer generations of EMS staff, I'd like to focus just a little on the idea of teaching. Personally, I woke up to it a little bit late. I'd always put the training department at the back of my mind as a possible fall-back option for when my time on the road had taken too much of a toll on my back. Planning ahead, I knew I could always rely on experience to teach newer generations of paramedics. But at the start of the career, that fall-back seemed a long way off.
After a few years, the system changed drastically and meant that students were spending a great deal more time out on the road with experienced staff. This meant that there were now more opportunities to stay on the road and teach at the same time. I jumped at the chance, but no one jumped in the same direction, allegedly because none of the students liked the idea of working only nights. Eventually, one
mug fool student picked up the gauntlet and gave it a go. Others followed.
The thing I discovered instantly, was that in order to teach, I needed to be a lot more alert to every single thing I did. The questions could fly thick and fast. What did you just do? How did you do that? And the scariest of the lot: Why did you just do that?
The questions weren't being asked to test me, but it sure felt like it sometimes. My skills had to be razor sharp, as did my knowledge. Most of all, I spent a great deal of time learning as well as teaching. Never being afraid to admit that I don't always have the answers was part of the deal.
I held a diary in my uniform pocket at all times. At the back, were two sets of notes. One set was a list of calls, brief notes and mini-reminders of people and cases I met that I would then write about. The other set had a title at the top of the page: Homework. My homework, not what I set for my student. When an answer to one of their questions included the phrase I don't know, it was time for another line on the homework page.
There was also another strand of teaching. Teaching friends, relatives, even the general public. Teaching about the ambulance service itself, teaching the basics of first aid, teaching the skills that could one day make the difference between life and death. Even simpler - teaching when and why to call an ambulance.
Teaching is all about knowledge. It's about having the skills to take that knowledge and impart it to others. It's about having the courage and the awareness to know that you can never know it all. It's about constantly making the effort to bridge those gaps that are missing.
The thing I discovered about teaching is that it is easily the best learning tool out there.
So go teach. Find something you're good at and teach it to someone. Or, alternatively, find something that you're not so good at, study it enough so that you'll know that if anyone asks, you can teach that too.
Those that can't do, teach? Pah. Those who can teach, do wonders.