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The student at the helm

The student at the helm

When art meets science

Who: Chahinda Ghossein, teacher in the Skills lab and researcher at obstetrics and gynaecology

Poem: On Teaching, Khalil Gibran, from the series of essays called The Prophet

Target group: all students

He may not be that well known in the Netherlands, but in the Arab world Khalil Gibran is a very big name. “I read his poems for the first time when I was a child. Just like me, he is from Lebanon,” says Chahinda Ghossein, teacher in the Skills lab. “At the time, his poems didn’t make that much of an impression on me, but a few years ago I read them again. I started on my PhD and wondered: what kind of a teacher do I want to be while at the same time being a student? I remember that Gibran had written about this.”

In the poem On Teaching, Gibran describes his attitude towards teaching. “He believes that you can only teach somebody something that is already inside that person. The role of the teacher is not to transfer knowledge, but to inspire. For example, you can teach someone to play music on an instrument, but you cannot ensure that that person will play the piece exactly as you have it in your head. The student always puts something of himself/herself into it and you must allow that.”

This may seem as if the poem focuses on teachers, but according to Ghossein students can also learn from it. “You are the leader of your own learning curve. The student is at the helm, the teacher is the compass. You have to wonder: what do I want to learn. And by that I don’t mean what chapters are you going to read, but broader: which skills do I wish to learn, what knowledge do I want and what means do I need to do so. Does my present programme provide that or do I need to acquire it in some other way. That is also the idea behind problem-based learning, although this may take matters a little further.”

Ghossein wondered about these things too when she started on her PhD. “You often start out with nothing, you don’t know where it’s going. So you have to really stick to your plan: that is where I want to finish. The poem is about that too, it enriches you as a student.” Anyhow, she likes to read poetry. “You have the freedom not to be logical. Logic is at times limiting, a poet can just do as he or she pleases.”



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