The first-year and second-year OT students - both of the cohort groups on campus right now - in the program where I teach viewed a screening of a documentary film today called "Shooting Beauty." This film was produced by ReelAbilities, an organization based in NY started in 2007 to promote award-winning films by and about people with disabilities. The students came together in an auditorium to watch the 62-minute long film and then to dialogue about the impact the film had on their perspective as future occupational therapy practitioners. After the film was screened, students broke up into small groups that included members of each of the two classes to chat. Following that, a whole-group debriefing was conducted with input from the instructors and students.
Part of the discussion centered on the importance of therapeutic use of self in interactions with clients and others. One of the big take-aways the students identified was the impact of having a feeling of meaning and purpose in one's life and of feeling valued and understood.
My diagnosis is not who I am," said Tony, one of the individuals featured in the film.
One student point out that several of the struggles of the individuals shown in the film are things that some of us may also be experiencing or might have experienced in the past, such as the heartbreak at the end of a relationship. The general consensus of the group who viewed the documentary was that watching the film helped us to better relate to others who may have different lives and/or challenges than we do. Overall, we agreed that we felt inspired by watching the film.
The biggest thing is to start the conversation. Everybody has the right to be heard," stated Courtney, the photographer in the film.
Because the project shown in the film was partially funded by a grant, the class session was wrapped up with a discussion of the intricacies of grant writing which included some "insider tips" from faculty member Courtney Sasse.
As a follow-up, I want to share a link to a list of resources including grant funding for individuals with disabilities: joyfuljourneymom.com/ultimate-list-of-grants-and-resources-for-families-with-special-needs/
I'm a bit of an aberration (or at least my schedule is) in terms of when the courses I teach begin and end in the program in which I am working. First of all, the college in which I teach runs on terms rather than semesters, meaning that the grading period is 6 months long instead of 15 weeks as is much more traditionally the set-up. On top of that, courses start and stop at various time points during a term, based on a multitude of factors. What that means for me is that the term I will begin teaching one course in February, and two more in April, the latter two being taught to two different cohorts (first-year OT students and second-year OT students).
On another front, I am two weeks into the semester in the two classes I am taking as a doctoral student, and so I can relate to what my students may be about to experience in navigating a new course syllabus, buying textbooks, entering due dates for class sessions and assignments/tests into my calendar, etc. I once had a classmate who compared the starting of a new class to climbing into a bed with new linens on it. I am not sure that I am in agreement with that metaphor, but I understand the feeling of starting anew. I hope that I am able to both put my students' minds at ease - to transmit a "we're in this together" message to them from early on in each course - and spark their interest in learning the subject matter at hand. That's my goal for the next couple of weeks at least ...
I am a teacher at heart, and there are moments in the classroom when I can hardly hold the job. When my students and I discover unchartered territory to explore, when the pathway out of a thicket opens up before us, when our experience is illuminated by the lightning-life of the mind - then teaching is the finest work I know." ~Parker Palmer
Stephanie Lancaster, MS, OTR/L, ATP, CAPS is an occupational therapist with 25+ years of clinical experience. As an assistant professor, Stephanie trumpets the value of teaching and practicing in the field of OT in an "out loud" manner.