Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Well, enough of you kind folks have inquired as to how my class went on last Friday, I've decided to indulge you.  ;)

As part of my grad school curriculum, I was given the opportunity to teach an undergrad Marriage & Family Therapy class for one day.  My topic was "Ethical Dilemmas" and to be honest, only a few weeks ago I probably knew as much about the topic as any of you (or possibly, much, much less).  So, I did what any good American would do, and began with googling "what is ethics" and went from there!

Certainly, I was able to read ahead in my studies (since, ironically, we have yet to cover this subject in my own grad classes - yikes!) and track down some literature that helped me learn more about the subject and led me to do what every good teacher ends up doing when preparing for a class:  scavenging YouTube clips of relevant material.

The class I taught was about 20 students, mostly upperclassman, and the majority were female.  The professor met me at the beginning of class and was incredibly encouraging as I set up my prezi ("prezi" is the new hipster method of PowerPoint as I've recently come to find out) and looked out upon my, I mean students.

I figured I probably looked a million years old to them and while I may have smiled back with a trying-to-hard-to-get-them-to-like-me smile, I knew they expected me to know what I was talking about when I opened my mouth, and that was an exhilarating and daunting feeling.  Lucky for me, I was armed with a bag of KitKats and fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence that none of them seemed the wiser to.

I introduced them to ethics, what it was, what makes up an ethical dilemma, and we began watching a variety of clips I pulled to demonstrate the breadth of how and where and why ethical dilemmas present themselves among the most mundane to the most dramatic of circumstances.  Hunger Games, Breaking Bad, Grey's Anatomy, and an old smoking ad that showed a medical doctor endorsing Camel Lights helped spur our conversation about recognizing the ethics in a variety of situations.

Finally, I showed them the "ethical dilemma of all ethical dilemmas" and played the clip of Sophie's Choice that I'm sure left them all scarred for life.  To my surprise, one student actually knew the name of the film and the cinephile in me was proud that apparently someone is still teaching these kids pop culture influences within cinematic history.

After this, I broke them into groups where they came up with their own ethical dilemmas and had to distinguish the two sides (at least) to the situation and give pros and cons (or, cons and cons) for each side.  This played out well (the KitKats didn't hurt) and they seemed genuinely engaged as they shared their dramatic scenarios which ranged from heart transplant narratives to euthanizing a family pet.

With each story, I then (here's where my extemporaneous speech background comes in handy!) "upped the ante" on the spot and made the choices even harder.  For example, one group suggested the ethical dilemma of choosing between giving a heart transplant to a mother or a doctor...and after we discussed that, I said "what if it was an elderly nobel prize winner and a twenty-year-old criminal?"  It was nice to see the wheels turning in their heads.

I wrapped up the class with some talk about the Code of Ethics that therapists abide by, what that means and how we use it and/or struggle with it.  And, I gave them the basic outlines for assessing situations within therapy that might present ethical dilemmas and how those are approached in professional practice.

Overall, it was awesome.  It was refreshing to be in front of a group of students who were respectful and engaged.  I don't think I'll be applying for any teaching positions any time soon, but I'm grateful for the experience and humbled that my colleagues entrusted me with the responsibility of it.  It also makes me really, truly grateful for my college professors (past and present) and the unseen amounts of time and energy that they surely pour into their work day in and day out.  Wow.

Professor Pardy, signing off.

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