By Erika Stewart and Stefanie Lamont

As Bachelor of Science in Nursing students at Camosun College and the University of Victoria (UVic), we take every opportunity to learn from our teachers. What we value most is learning from all their different teaching styles and techniques. As we began to explore teaching and learning through our 4th year community practicum, we reflected on which teachers inspired us and helped facilitate our goals of becoming nurses and taking on roles as nurse leaders. Here, we share our personal insights into how these teachers inspired us. Further, how our own experience as teachers in this practicum facilitated deeper appreciation for those who undertake this role
every day. The photos below show us, Erika Stewart in the middle and Stefanie Lamont on the right, hard at work with our Field Guide, Jeannine Moreau on the left.

Our experience teaching

Through our own experience, we became increasingly aware of the way different teaching styles impact how the lesson unfolds. When we had the opportunity to create a presentation to deliver to three classes of Camosun 3rd year BSN students, we reflected on and discerned how this learning could work for us and how we could incorporate it into our own teaching practices. We did this using a variety of tools and approaches. Our presentation was on how the power of our language as nurses contributes to marginalization, oppression, and stigmatization in the hospital setting. We used the lens of intersectionality to reveal the profound effects of these factors as embedded in language. With each presentation, the stage was set with the idea that we are all a community of learners, which we established by encouraging open discussion and inviting students to share their ideas and experiences, as we shared ours; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We provided examples of the struggles we had with figuring out our own biases and judgments, and how awkward it is to be vigilant about oppressive language while still wanting to fit in with the culture of the unit.

Lessons Learned

In the classroom, we learned that we needed to be fluid and think on our feet, as the dynamic and direction of discussion shifted depending on the engagement of the class and the type of questions they asked. This illustrated to us how our approach to teaching precipitated the students being able to influence the discussion. From this experience, we recognized the vital roles both students and teachers play as components of the teaching/learning experience. In particular, the importance of learning to work with changing dynamics on the spot. We were able to allow the students to take some of the lead, but also able to stay on track with the focus of
our presentation.

It was evident from the students’ participation and their teachers’ comments that the students found our presentation engaging, relevant, and thought provoking. This affirmed for us that the strategies we used achieved what we hoped they would achieve. Such as our using Maya Angelou’s video clip on “The Power of Words” evoked comments like “I never thought of language that way, but this is so true.” As well, we used a clay-mation video that illustrated the concept of intersectionality by comparing and contrasting three people’s life situations, one of privilege and two who experienced a number of oppressions. Another strategy was to give
examples of words actually used in patient charts and hand-over reports, which facilitated a lively, passionate discussion. For us, we discovered that learning is a group process that goes beyond a teacher speaking at the front of class. Teaching/learning is a shared experience.

Through this process, we realized that it was the teachers along our way who enabled us to accomplish this teaching/learning experience. Each time we delivered our presentations, we found ourselves saying “we have a whole new appreciation for our instructors!” It is emotionally and physically exhausting to stand up in front of a
classroom of 40 people, all of whom come with their own opinions and perspectives. An important insight was the vulnerability we felt as teachers which we didn’t appreciate until we stood up there ourselves.

Rewarding Experiences

What helped us most in this teaching/learning exercise was reflecting back on the teaching styles of those teachers who inspired us. They demonstrated personal investment in our learning, and a genuine desire to see us do well. They were open to our feedback, even if it did not align with their own views. They welcomed all
questions, which made for rich and informative discussions. They understood the stress and anxiety that comes with undertaking a nursing degree and did their best to support us through the hard times and encourage us through the good. Not to say that these teachers made it an “easy ride;” on the contrary, they had high expectations, but made it clear how to meet those expectations and gave us strategies for success. They would let us cry on their shoulders during the midterm stress breakdowns and cheer us on when we finally got to remove that first chest tube. These teachers cultivated ways to engage in mutual respect. We never felt like we were of a lower status than our teachers, but that we were engaging in a mutually beneficial experience in which we were all teaching and all learning.

Though we are fortunate enough to say that most of our teaching and learning experiences at Camosun and UVic have been positive, we decided to illustrate those experiences that didn’t work as well for us. For both of us, an authoritative approach to teaching came immediately to mind. Situations like this were detrimental to
our learning. In our program, we have learned a lot about top-down, “power over” approaches, how they are can deter effective leadership, and hinder productivity. We believe this is the same in teaching/learning relationships.

An authoritative approach places the student in a subservient position and makes the focus about pleasing the teacher rather than gaining appropriate knowledge. For example, in the hospital setting, being able to ask questions is vital. In an ideal situation, the instructor would welcome all questions. However, a less effective
example is responding to certain questions with “you should know that” or “you should have learned this in class.”

This approach has the potential to make the student afraid to ask any question for fear of being reprimanded. Certainly, there are things nursing students “should” know, but a more effective approach would be to determine together where the deficit was, and why the student might not know a particular piece of information.

What we learned is that teaching is not an easy undertaking. We suspect it is often difficult for even the best of teachers to match their teaching style to every student’s vastly different and unique personalities, learning styles, and perspectives. We would like to end our final semester of academic classes at UVic with a thank you to all of our teachers. Whether or not our teaching and learning styles matched, we have a new appreciation for the efforts, thought processes, and considerations you make each day to encourage and enrich our learning.