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Friday, February 1, 2013

An open letter to my classmates

...And whoever else who is tempted to immediately complain that something in education isn't working and there needs to be immediate changes so that it is an effective learning experience for them as an individual. 

We are in a class of over 130 people.  There is a subset of those 130 people that do really well with power points, minutae, a diadactic learning style where we are talked to for hours on end and told what is need-to-know for the test.

I am not one of those people.

Did you know that I'm at the bottom of the class rankings?

A lot of my classmates are surprised to hear this - after all I can have a conversation about the material with them and can intelligently discuss mechanisms and I have a very good understanding of the material being presented.  Read through this blog and I think you would be surprised at some of the topic depth that I chose to share with the general public and my readers because I am confident enough that my explanation will make things CLEARER for them which will ultimately help the vet profession and our patients.

Did you know that I fail tests on a regular basis?  Even if I love the subject?  That there has been more than one block that I've barely squeeked by in by a percentage point or less?  Did you know that I've been told by Doctors I respect that I'm going to make an excellent vet or graduate student? 

Did you know that power points and long multiple choice tests that attempt to trick me by wordings do not accurately test my understanding of the material even if they do yours?

How often do I stand up in class and announce that power points do not work, and case studies bore me the tears and thus there needs to be a change?  Never.

Instead I take psychiatric medicines in an attempt be able to focus and care about class (even though I love medicine and vetmed), force my brain to focus for 50 minutes at a time, and pray that what the teacher decides to ask test happens to be comprehensive enough that I pass. 

In this current block, infectious disease, I am currently getting an A.  I'm not having problems completing my assignments, reading, or other expected self learning materials.  I'm engaged in class, taking notes, and the tests are actually reflective of what I know.


While people around me grumble and complain about the lack of specifics in Dr. F's lectures and his casual style, and berate Dr. B for the structure of her team based learning experiences, I couldn't be happier.  I'm learning the material, I LOVE school again.

And folks - I sick of hearing you bitch about the structure of this block and every other block that isn't didactic based. 

-Do you realize that different learning styles exist in this class and by constantly catering to one set of you, it leaves me and my type completely in the dark, struggling and feeling like our voices are never heard and our learning style is never addressed - even though that was exactly the point of this new curriculum? 

-Do you realize that when you speak up in class and offer criticism about the block structure that you are not speaking for everyone in the class?  That you are speaking for YOURSELF and to assume that you are even in the majority is a bit presumptuous?  At least for myself - I'm so used to shutting up and dealing whatever is thrown at me even though it DOES NOT WORK FOR ME TO LEARN THE MATERIAL, that truthfully, you may not even know that I exist - so you can be forgiven in thinking that everyone is fine with powerpoints and being talked at.

-Did you know that it is OK to make mistakes?  That in the real world you get to take "tests" that you never studied for, and thus only figure out what you need to go learn after the fact?  And that this is OK?  Failure is part of the learning experience.  It's effective and it's completely normal - and to be so afraid of failure that you refuse to let it enter into your learning experience is to completely shut out one of the most effective learning tools.  The real world rarely comes with manuals and powerpoints and that's what is wonderful about it.  It isn't about regurgitating the minutiae - it's about using your networks, critically thinking skills, and taking risks because the risk outweighs the benefit.

-I am told by many of you that there simply isn't enough hours in the day to finish everything that you need to finish for the block to prepare.  When I feel that way, it's often because I'm approaching the material in the wrong way.  I rarely blame the material, the block, the instructors and instead put the blame/accountability where it belongs - on me.  I am accountable for my learning experience.  There seems to be a perception among some people that since we are paying a ton of money for them to teach us how to be vets, that the instructors are responsible for giving us the information we need as we sit there and listen, and then go home to figure out how to memorize it for the test.  *I* am paying a ton of money for these precious few years not to thrown factoid after factoid that I could learn out of a book - I am paying money so that I can be immersed into the subject of MEDICINE and veterinary SCIENCE.  So that I can learn the stories and the people behind it.  So that I can gain that feel for immensity of the subject that can't be experienced by reading a book.  Vet medicine is more than giving medicine B to treat condition A.  It's the culture, and the experience and to cut it down to bullet points on the slide and miss the passion and excitement of the professors that are willing to emphasize the stories and wonders of biology is to sell our wonderful profession short. 

The intention of this post was not to point to a specific person or learning style and to say "you are wrong" - it was to perhaps introduce you to a view point that you did not know existed among your class mates.  Although I suspect that the people I wanted to read this the most probably got pissed off in the first paragraph or two and didn't bother reading it through.  Veterinary medicine is diverse and so are your classmates.  Not all of us are going to be clinicians, not all of us want power points, not all of this are getting into this primarily because we love animals, and not all of us think that tests are the most important part of vet school.

Let's go have a beer after class one day and get to know each other better.  Tell me why you went to vet school and why you are excited about your career.  Let's help each other through these blocks as one plays to the strengths of some, and then another block to the strengths of others.  Let's build some lasting relationships that remain long after the test grade. 


  1. At the very beginning of my library grad school courses, we had a class that specifically dealt with learning styles and communication styles. We self-administered stuff like Myers-Briggs and learning-style tests, and discovered that within our class (as in the population of library patrons we would eventually work with) we showed a wide range of communication styles and learning preferences. The class was divided almost evenly into visual learners, auditory learners, and kinetic learners.

    And how did the professor teach this class?

    She stood at the front of the room and lectured.

    For the entire quarter.

    Because that's how SHE learns, so that's the right way to do it.


    Are you aware that it's *almost* possible to set an instructor on fire using only your eyeballs? I'm sure her feet were getting warm.

  2. Hahahahaha! So true. I think that although we went over the myer-briggs test and talked a lot about personality types and how they function in a group, we totally MISSED talking about different learning styles and so as a result, there is not a whole lot of tolerance for anything except diadactic and traditional labs --> forgetting there are other formats that are effective for teaching that do not fall into that. Going to vet school is teaching more about how to teach material than anything else!

  3. Loved this post! This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, especially as I'm starting to tutor some kids who are not doing well in school. The school system fails in many ways, and this is one of them.

  4. This is very funny because just last week at Pony Club Elenore and I were being taught the parts of the horse's leg. Biology is not really my cup of tea and I was making a poor showing. Every time I got asked a question I'd kind of point at the horse and say "uhhhh, err...". Elenore answered about tendons, where they went, etc very well. Then we got a multiple choice test and I NAILED it. I swear all college taught me was how to take multiple choice tests on information I only have an mere inkling on and do better than a chimp pressing buttons- Lore

  5. This is so true! I LOVE discussions! I used to think I did well with powerpoint style...and I do. I find, however, that I enjoy and like to share my knowledge and get truly excited about the subject matter in a more laid back format.


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