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Connection Over Content

7/22/2020

My ‘exciting’ new hobby of 2020 has been homeschooling my children. Our school system closed the schools mid-March. The COVID motto of the elementary school, when it re-opened virtually, was ‘connection over content’. What this meant, the principal explained, was that the school was going to focus on making sure each student felt connected to their classroom and teacher, in a learning-optional way. This was supported by hour-long daily zoom meetings in which my 8 year olds shared about what they had done the previous day (answer – nothing, they were all on lock-down).

Was this connection-focused education a success? Well, my son, Joe, rapidly learned a lot. For example: how to change his zoom background every 30 seconds. For example: how to draw on the teacher’s screen, obliterating her work. For example: how to replace his head on the screen with a laughing poop emoji. His teacher loved his enthusiasm :P I don’t think I heard him express any particular satisfaction in any virtual connecting that was happening and I certainly don’t think he learned much. In the rush to make each student feel connected, the school (IMHO) forgot that its core mission was to educate children.

With this ‘connection over content’ playing over and over again in my mind like a bad 80s song, I want to be the first to admit that we may have been overly content focused, or mission driven, and not focused enough on connection. My sister, Abby, just started a new job with the State of California, and relocated to Sacramento on March 15th. She has never met her co-workers, never set foot in her office, and notes that moving to a new city, it is hard to meet people when you are literally not allowed to meet people.

We are blessed to be able to come into work every day and interact IRL, and I’ve assumed that in-person interaction will lead to the connection that our program is known for. What I’m learning is that the connection struggle is real. Those of us who have been here for a while have groups of friends and colleagues that we’ve developed over time based on mutual interests or hobbies. If you’ve just moved here, that is very hard to do. Many residents are afraid of mis-stepping and making the news as a source of COVID infections – this is leading to a reduction in the informal after-work group interactions that might otherwise be occurring.

So, I’d like to propose an amendment to ‘connection over content.’ I think that we can do both. Content is robustly occurring, in our conferences, which have continued unabated, and on the wards, which are full to bursting. We are going to focus more on connection. Here are some ways we’re going to do that:

  1. We’re going back to the drive-in in August, this time the entire residency program and all medicine fellows are invited. We’re going to open the drive-in at 5:30 to allow for a full 3 hours of socializing before the movie. Partners and children are welcome. Corn hole and Frisbees will be available (after you sanitize your hands). More details to come.
  2. The Residency Experience Committee (Amogh, Adi, Dineth, and Darci) are working on creating more in-person social activities to be rolled out as long as the warm weather holds. If you’ve got an idea, reach out to one of them. If you are an intern and want to be the intern rep, email Darci telling her why.
  3. Allie, Emily C., and Susan have been hard at work creating a Big Sib program which will pair a PGY1 up with a PGY2 or 3 based on hobbies or professional interests. We’re hoping that the big sib will provide mentorship, guidance, and also include the little sib in social events and opportunities.
  4. We’ve got in-person conferences! This is a great time to see one another. In addition to your virtual attendance, please come in person to morning report at least once weekly. In person attendance can help build community.

If you’ve got any further ideas, reach out to me, or one of the REC members – or take things into your own hands and reach out to your peers with a plan.

Stay safe; stay healthy!

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