Lessons From Middle School Drama

November Gratitude Shorts, Day 15

Grateful for the arts today, and theater in particular. This is unusual for me, as I am generally not a theater-goer. But the middle school’s first production of the year occurred this weekend. My son served on crew, so I was excited to see the show!

The students positively awed me with their performance. They adapted three books in what I would describe as visual narrative. The players took turns speaking and acting lines from the books, with minimal props and costumes. The depth of expression these preteens acheived far surpassed my expectations. 

They chose Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, and Boy by Roald Dahl. The first two blew me away. As I watched and listened to the autobiographical narratives of one girl’s coming of age during the civil rights movement, and another’s harrowing trauma of Soviet subjugation, I found myself trying to imagine myself in their shoes. 

It makes me wonder, do I do this enough in my work? When I hear my patients’ stories do I try to take their perspective and understand their decision making? I believe I do, mainly because I take the time to ask about their stories. I know this is the best way to counsel them on health behavior change. We make decisions emotionally, and rationalize afterward. So I need to speak to whatever holds meaning for each individual, which I can only know by listening to each person’s story and taking his/her perspective.

A study of medical students by Blatt  et al in 2010 showed that perspective taking can be taught, and can positively impact patient satisfaction. I would argue that it also improves physician satisfaction, and the benefits ripple out to the whole system. 

Where I need to practice perspective taking more is outside the exam room, when I interact with my support staff.  I need to learn more about their workflow, to understand the impact of my frequent and often impromptu requests of them throughout the day.  I need to verify that the stories I tell myself about their behavior at work are accurate (or, likely not–then I need to get curious). I need to ask for and listen to their stories in order to know best how to integrate the team.  I’m so grateful to the middle school drama club and my blogging challenge for helping me uncover this insight tonight. Now to put it into practice tomorrow morning!

2 thoughts on “Lessons From Middle School Drama

  1. Cathy, just a thought: too many “I need to…” (adds to the stress, guilt, feelings of inadequacy…) Maybe try “I choose to…” Yes, words are important!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Larry, for the observation. Indeed lots of “I need”s, huh? Interestingly, though, I was able to slow down a purturbation in the workflow today and ask myself what my medical assistant might be thinking. I didn’t have to do anything differently, necessarily, but it felt good to notice the opportunity and practice. So I CHOOSE to practice on! 😊


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