Is a fragile community better than no community?
Wow, what a week it’s been. I won’t bore you with a day by day play by play, rather a 3 day sampling will suffice. Where to begin…I’ll start with Thursday… a 3 hour lab for second year nursing students with the topic of mental health assessment. My colleague and I collaboratively facilitate this lab and she was “leading” today. I had my laptop out, sitting to the side, feeling restless and frustrated while witnessing a didactic “push” of information toward 12 students exhausted from their previous 2 1/2 days in clinical. I’m surfing blogs, for heaven’s sake, of persons blogging on their experience with mental illness, convinced there’s got to be a better way to do this. Soon enough we got to the role plays and practice assessments and the students become engaged and learning happens!
On Friday morning, the same 12 students return to health assessment 220 lab. Today, they appear well rested and more focused. The topic is a heavy one for the Friday lead-in to a long weekend; the emotional component of mental health assessment. In this lab, we will identify “high-risk for suicide” groups, practice interviewing with the focus on emotional dimension, and proceed to a suicide risk assessment if deemed necessary. After the requisite viewing of video modeling this interview, my colleague shares a glimpse of her personal battle with depression. We look at the Theory of Chronic Sorrow as a framework for understanding and intervening with individuals or family members of individuals with chronic physical or mental health challenges. I share my personal appreciation for this framework as it describes my experience as the parent of a child with insulin dependent diabetes and I “leak” a little. The students are highly engaged and interacting on a deeper level than what we’ve seen before (this is their 4th lab together). Two of them share their experiences with depression and suicidal ideation, what help(ed/s) and hinder(ed/s) in their management. By the time we go to practice with role playing scenarios, the students are totally invested, each and every one. The caring and learning in the room is almost tangible. In a triad of students working behind a curtain, one student breaks down and shares a REAL monumental burden she’s been carrying for three years AND the 2 students working with her apply what they’ve been learning to assist her.. …. my colleague checks in and facilitates an action plan so that students are not left to carry this.
I’m still feeling deeply moved when I consider what transpired in that room on Friday and I am framing it in light of the characteristics of community, as described by Dr. Richard Schwier. Trust promoted intimacy in this community of second year nursing students. I expect the relationships built here will develop resilience to breech the boundaries of a lab that happens only 12 times in a Term 1. Why? Because people desire to know one another and be known as much as they desire to learn the content they showed up to learn.
Which takes me to Wednesday, …and a stimulating skype interview with my personal teaching idol, Dr. Sandra Bassendowski at the U of S, Regina site, who has been an early adopter of ICT in nursing education. The purpose of this chat was to incorporate communication from the interview into a paper for my online leadership course. I had prepared Dr. B. that I was particularly interested in her leadership in integration of ICT. So I started the interview with a question, “Is it fair to assume that ICT is vital to the process of teaching and implementing evidence-based practice?” Her answer: “(we are) evolving and moving, we have a ways to go, the valuing of tech is not there yet.” I was first exposed to the pedagogy of “connectivity” in Sandra’s Teaching in Nursing course last year. Online community sprung up in that course. We met f2f once a week, but we really connected on Ning, co-creating our curriculum for 30% of our grade. The grumpiest adopters are still lamenting that we couldn’t leave the site up. I know this because they are now part of my PLN. 5 of us MN students from S’toon coffee and wrestle with concepts, plan our papers, or help each other out with practical organizational tips as we are all FT nurses in ed. or management. I echo what Shauna said about students who don’t speak up in class or clinical post-conference finding their voice online because I was one of those. I became animated on the web. We absolutely knew more about each other from the online component than the f2f part as we shared photos and videos clips and passions became evident in the freedom of co-creation.
The line between my two current courses – Nursing Leadership and eci831 – has blurred this week. The learning in each is synergistic for the other. Leadership requires continuous learning; communication with experts within and without one’s field, and followers; identification of values; reflection, and innovation. These are all threads flowing through eci831.
As I’m contemplating my leadership development plan, I’m affirming the value of a PLN to self-actualize as a teacher and a leader. As I’m considering my project for eci831, I expect that whatever I create will bring innovation to my teaching AND strengthen me as a leader of students and colleagues.
A final thought for the week: the image chosen to begin this week’s reflection symbolizes my feeling about where we are as eci831 participants this week. Some of us have some fragile points of connection, but as yet, there’s nothing to keep a breath of wind from eternally separating us.
Thanks Alec for the simple instructions for attributing images in our blogs.