Monday, December 29, 2008

End of a decade

Just before Christmas I accepted a six month contract in Brisbane, Australia to work as a project manager implementing and evaluating an e-mentoring scheme for Aged Care Queensland. So, for the time being I am leaving Otago Polytechnic but am maintaining my connections with midwifery education as I continue to lead the SLENZ birth unit project - more about my new job and the SLENZ project in later posts.

Reflecting on the last 10 years of my life
I have been a midwifery lecturer for nearly 10 years. I would say that being an educator is not for the faint-hearted. It is not an easy option compared to clinical practice. The pressure on lecturers is immense - to be an excellent teacher, research and publish, continue clinical practice, be mother, father and fairy god-mother to students. There are incredibly high expectations of you from colleagues, students, institution and profession. And a lot of the time, there are few pay backs.

All worth while

But on the odd occasion I have had midwives say to me that they remembered what I taught them, for example, about post partum hemorrhage or suturing that has guided them as they have dealt with clinical situations. And that has been what has sustained me over the years.

Lows and highs
The lows of the last 10 years has got to be the times of conflict, when I have had to work through situations where students have failed assessments or placements. Dealing with conflict is always very difficult but the way I manage that now is to make sure there is a clear process in place and follow that accordingly. In other words, the process sorts things out, not me - I do not have to take ownership of what is happening.

The highs has to be the wonderful team of women I have worked with over the years. They are amazing women who are truly dedicated to the midwifery profession. They have so many skills and attributes, are incredibly warm and generous in how they have supported me, and are amazing midwives. I shall miss them.

What I have learned about being a teacher
When I look back at my early teaching days I cringe with embarrassment. And in many ways it is only over the last few months that I have really got my head around what being a teacher is all about. As I have said before, teaching is about more than content delivery. I feel the challenge for today's educators is how we can support students to look beyond the next assignment and exam to how they become life-long learners. This is not an easy task when undergraduate (and postgraduate) education is so focused on assessment and outcomes.

My passion
This leads me to my great passion: supporting life-long learning in the workplace, as opposed to the educational institution. In today's context of increasing demands, cut-backs and staff shortages, workplace 'education' gets put on the back burner. Yet, professional development, learning and support is vital to maintain a motivated and skilled workforce in health.

I believe the key is networking and supporting each other to support each other. In other words, if there's free time at work, we should be encouraging each other to go online and 'talk' to someone or read a blog post as opposed to being made to feel guilty about "not doing anything" and being sent off to do meaningless cleaning.

A new challenge
So, I'm off to face a new challenge and follow my passion and dream into project management, mentoring, professional development and life-long learning in health. Where I'll be in six months time, I do not know. It's going to be a crazy ride - I hope you join me!


Leigh Blackall said...

Hey Sarah, good on you for getting and taking the opportunity in Brisbane.. 6 months isn't very long, but I'm sure you'll make a strong enough impact that it will lead onto other contracts. It is a big loss to Otago Polytechnic to see a person with your passion and skills in online communication and networking take the leap, and I try hard not to look darkly on our bosses for not offering you something better and retaining you here with us. Perhaps over the next 6 months they will find time to look up from the 12 inches in front of them, and come to see the loss and bring you back with more of a role in helping other staff develop the skills you have. It has been great to watch you become so empowered through this stuff, and even better to get to know you through it and share many a laugh. Thanks for all your help and support over the past 2 years we've worked together, it has been a real hoot. I'm looking forward to a new side to our collaborations from now on. Our blogs will be an extra important connection from now on...

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you very much for your kind comments, Leigh. I am hoping that I will be able to return to Otago Polytechnic in some form or another later this year - OP is doing great work and I really would like to be part of whats happening. I am presenting an online session for the OP PD day in February about how I am developing my ePortfolio.

Meanwhile, thank you for all your support during the last couple of years. I am planning to keep bugging you - it will be interesting to hear your view on my adventures in the aged care sector.

Peta said...

Love that Wordle tshirt. Looking forward to catching up with you when you are in Qld.

Sarah Stewart said...

Looking forward to it, Peta. I've already heard of things happening that I would not have access to here.

Anonymous said...

Moving on? Wow congratulations!

I have to say that your impact as an educator has extended beyond the confines of your classes. You have been a very positive influence on me and continue to be, and one that I will continue to look to.

In particular, your willingness to share you experiences and observations as a teacher and your modelling of openness have always been both insightful and inspiring.

Best of luck to you in your new position!



Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you, Mike. I have really enjoyed meeting you as well and find your blog posts to be really insightful. You're one of the key people in my learning network and I am sure I'll continue to rely heavily
on you and the others for support in my move.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your new position! I look forward to hearing about your adventures in aged care ;) I have learned a lot from you and I hope to learn more in '09. Best of luck!

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks, Claire. I'm still an educator but am looking forward to considering education with a slightly different slant than I have done.

Carolyn said...

Well good buddy, you and I have traveled quite a journey together in bloggerland although you have gone streaks ahead of me in the last few months. Your sense of fun and humour shine through in your posts and in your teaching too and this is what endears you I think. Your insight in your blog posts and ability to reflect are goals I try to aspire to. I look forward to keeping up with your life in Queensland and hope we see you back over this side of the ditch again soon. I will miss you!
Fly high and enjoy the sun.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you for those kind words, Carolyn. Needless to say, I'll keep in touch-you'll have to make sure you tell me all the gossip!

Anonymous said...

I think you're right when you say that students need to be in the mindset of being life-long learners. Education and culture are ever-evolving and show that we really never do (or never should) stop learning. Therefore, it is also important to take advantage of the educational opportunities that we are presented with. EducationDynamics has a new video that encourages people to go back to school and continue their learning process. This video can be found at


Emily (EducationDynamics)