What goes around, comes around

I wonder why this is happening. I feel like I am going from unknown depths in my life, to climbing back up that mountain within days. Which means that one week I’m making you read how miserable things are and then in the following week I tell you how fabulous life is. Lets hope I won’t keep bouncing as strongly…

On Thursday, I attended a course organised by the Medical Sciences Department on how to teach in small groups. Having my recent application for a teaching fellowship in the back of my head, I figured this might be a good preparation for an interview – should I be invited for one… And let me tell you this: I’ve never been to such an informative and fun course before. After half a year in Oxford, asking occasional questions about the University and its colleges but getting only vague answers, I now finally understand what these colleges are. And also know what these mysterious tutorials are good for. (note to self: write a post some day to share these insights with the wider world!) Unfortunately, the course ran a bit longer than scheduled and I had to run for an appointment at the dentist (of which I seem to have too many lately…).

I decided to send one of the organisers an email to apologise for running off like that, before they had finished. And to tell him I thought the course was really good and was even considering to go further than this one day and try to get an official teaching qualification. Not because I anticipate to need that in near future, but because I’ve always been interested in education and this course had rekindled that spark.

On a side note, I strongly believe that positive feedback is very important. If I am happy with something, I tend to tell people. I realised that the British are even more surprised with that than people back home. When one of the PhD students in our lab had given me a protocol that was really easier than my protocol, I told him I couldn’t believe that would work, but would try it anyway. When it did work, I told him and thanked him for sharing his secrets. And I’ve also told our lab manager that I’m impressed with the way he built a lab from scratch in half a year and is juggling the partially opposing expectations from us, the PI and the director. They both seemed genuinely surprised with my feedback, but really happy. They both told me that generally the British don’t say that kind of thing out loud. On the other hand, they also don’t complain. It’s still pretty alien to me, why can’t you show some emotion and let people know how you feel?

But to get back to this course. I went home after seeing the dentist (and being told that a third tooth is dying off too 😦 ) and sent a tweet into the world, linking to this course and telling how good is was. Then, I phoned some friends and told them too. And realised that I had really enjoyed it, so why not give them that feedback? So I did just that. I googled one of the organisers to get an email address and sent off this email. The next day, I got a reply that he was really happy with my feedback, as they rarely got any. Which convinced me that it is good to let people know when you appreciate them or what they do. I really dislike the fact that people seem to be more willing to complain about negatives than to truly appreciate positives.

Which would’ve been fine, if this had been the end of it. But then I got an email from the other organiser (there were two) to thank me for the email I sent the other guy. Turned out it probably was the last course he would run and my feedback made that kind of special to him. I explained what I said earlier in this post, that I am convinced people should speak up more when they appreciate something. To which this second organiser replied that this was exactly what they had been trying to explain during the course, that teaching isn’t only about getting facts through, but about inspiring people and making a difference.

And then. I still can’t believe my luck. He offered to mentor me if I’d like to start with a portfolio, which is necessary to get this teaching qualification, and that if my molecular biology is any good, he might even be able to help me get started with teaching. Are you kidding me? Most people apply for millions of things before they get offered a position, because of the high competition in medical sciences in Oxford, and he just throws something in my face? I still have to reply to his email to accept his offer, but I definitely will!

I’m absolutely not trying to say that you should become a slime ball trying to convince everybody you love them, because you think they will then magically fix your life for you. That’s not gonna get you anywhere. But you can make a big difference for people by genuinely appreciating them and what they do. With little to no effort, you can make people happier. And every now and then this comes back to haunt you 🙂



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