Category Archives: Lecturing



Silent Sunday

U is for… (#atozchallenge)

U is for…




Today’s post relates to occupational therapy, creative writing and life in general.

3D Character and Question Mark

To understand: To perceive the meaning or explanation of, grasp the idea of, or comprehend: to be thoroughly acquainted with or familiar with.

(Polatajko 2010, p. 59)


For me, when I was practicing, the most important meeting I had with my clients was the first one. The one where I completed the initial interview, found out what the reason for referral was and what the difficulties for that client were, and also, most importantly, what they wanted to achieve. When first seeing a client I would allow plenty of time for this, time to get to know them. I would often “only” see two new clients in a day (working in a community setting seeing people in their own homes). Now when you have to fill in stats for how many clients you see and when these are compared with the stats of other professions this can possibly look a little lax. I have heard students commenting on facing the same challenge, and believe me it is a challenge. We don’t have unlimited time, budget or resources, sometimes we can cut client meetings a little shorter but do we then really get to understand them or their needs?


Take for example a time when you have had to complain to someone about something. When were you satisfied that the person dealing with your issue understood what it was? Was it when they went, ‘yeah, yeah, have your refund.’ or when the person listened to what you had to say and reflected it back to you. Even if the outcome of the latter wasn’t what you desired I reckon most of us would still consider that to be the more positive outcome.


So why does it take an occupational therapist so much time to understand their clients?

Because we are dealing with their occupations, the things that they do everyday and the activities that form their identity. Polatajko (2010, p.58) suggests that:

Constructing an understanding of occupation requires a careful examination of the doing, the doer, the context or situation in which the occupation is found, and the relationships among these elements.

Could you do this in 30 minutes? Can you even do it in 2 hours (the average length of my first meetings)?

You need to understand a person on their own terms, understanding about their past and present, about their beliefs, values, culture, religion, family, etc. etc.


One thing about social media that has been really interesting for me has been communicating with my friends using facebook, twitter and more recently blogging. The latter has been a revelation and reading my friends’ blogs (their stories) has really helped me understand them a little better. People write about things we don’t talk about. I have suggested to students that blogs can be useful sources of information for understanding the impact of a particular health or social condition on a client. On Twitter at the moment there is a hashtag discussion on the use of social media (generally) in the NHS, #nhssm. Why not check it out.


Understanding a client’s narrative is an important part of clinical reasoning (Boyt Schell and Schell, 2010). I think it helps us connect to our clients by forming trust, they trust that we know them and we can trust that we are providing the best intervention for their needs and in their best interests.


In creative writing I think it is just as important that we get to know and understand our characters. A number of writers create detailed character sheets identifying a whole host of characteristics that may never make it into a completed story. They do this to understand the psyche of their character, to know how they would respond in different situations, what another character’s words might make them feel, what choices they would make when faced with the challenges we throw at them. I have just ordered a Kindle copy of Psychology for Screenwriters: Building the Conflict in Your Script(sponsored link) which I hope will help with my character creation.


Returning to the example I gave earlier of you getting someone to address your complaint, if you knew that the person saying, ‘yeah, yeah, have your refund’ had just been made redundant does that make their reaction anymore understandable?


How often do you spend time listening to people, getting to know your characters, reflecting on why people react or live in the way they do? What insights has this given you?


Thanks for reading




Boyt Schell, B.A., Schell, J.W. 2008. Clinical and Professional Reasoning in Occupational Therapy. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

Polatajko, H.J. 2010. The Study of Occupation. In: Christiansen, C.H., Townsend, E.A., 2010. Introduction to Occupation: The Art and Science of Living, 2nd ed. New Jersey: Pearson, 57-79.

(I have a feeling that a closer read of this chapter will be very useful to my PhD)

S is for… (#atozchallenge)

S is for…




Reading Is Fundamental

I have a confession…I love learning.


It’s good to get that out; I think it’s an addiction. I know that there are others of you out there.


I went to a Grammar School and I’m not convinced that it was there that inspired me. In fact when I was applying to university one course told me to take a year out and I decided not to because I didn’t think I’d be able to get back into learning if I’d had time out (ha, little did I know). It obviously helps when you are learning things that interest you and I still have examples of school projects where clearly I had been engrossed in the subject. I really enjoyed Sociology at A-Level and won a school prize for it. I studied English and did consider dropping it because I felt we were told to concentrate purely on the words of a text without always considering context.


I do, however, have a tendency to be a little flighty and get more excited about my next course or the next topic to learn. I was initially going to complete my dissertation at uni on autism but then on my mental health placement came across a young man who had drug induced psychosis (caused by cannabis consumption) so I applied to change my topic.


In 2004 I decided that I wanted to go back to study and enrolled on a few Open University courses, An Introduction to the Humanities and Start Writing Fiction and Start Writing Poetry. I was hooked. I then completed: Approaching Literature, Start Writing Plays, Perspectives on Leonardo da Vinci, Creative Writing, Advanced Creative Writing, 20th Century Literature: texts and debates. I got my first class BA (Hons) Literature in 2009 and had to hold myself back from signing up for another course, they have one on Children’s Literature where you can study Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!! (I did have a year out in 2006-7 to complete my PG Cert in Health and Social Care Education when I started my new job lecturing).


I’m now working towards a PhD and am finding the lack of deadlines challenging (I did sign up to the Writer’s Bureau course years ago and never finished because I didn’t have set deadlines). My supervisor has just suggested one though so hopefully that will push me to stop floundering and get on with it.


Academia then is actually a pretty good place for me to be, I really enjoy attending conferences and seminars and training sessions at work, always coming away with ideas but sadly not enough time to implement them all. I find this frustrating because my body can’t keep up with my mind, and there are only so many hours in a day. I think if I didn’t have to earn money I’d make a good eternal student, alongside my writing of course.


I have always been a strategic learner and learnt with a specific purpose, e.g. To write an assessment or to write a lecture to deliver. I need to set myself goals to work toward otherwise I don’t get anywhere.


I hope that my love for learning comes across to my students and that I inspire them to want to read more and find out more than I tell them. One of the biggest skills I learnt distance learning with the OU was that you need to learn yourself and that as you grow older it is less about being taught and more about picking up a book and reading and applying it to what you know or what you see around you (maybe that’s why although I enjoyed school it didn’t completely grab me then). I think that’s probably why yesterday’s topic of reflection appeals to me too, because it is generally a self managed process.

Day 106 - I am a librarian


My learning plans

My friend Stacey has completed some Science courses with the OU and she mentioned a course introducing Forensic Science. As my NaNoWriMo novel is a police story I am sorely tempted to sign up. The next presentation starts in May and there is some flexibility about when you complete it (in 6-8 weeks or 5 months). I just need to check if I’ve got enough Tesco vouchers to help pay some of the cost.

I have a few conference presentations coming up and plan to write journal articles on the topics I will be presenting on so that’s going to be a lot of reading and learning.

I would love to learn how to play the guitar

I would love to learn how to paint

I keep putting off the above two because they are ‘physical’ skills, something that you have to learn to do rather than understand. I know that they will be more difficult for me but I still want to try.

I want to keep learning about writing, I’m going to do that by doing it.


What are you/do you need to be learning at the moment?

Does a love of learning start in school or after? What was it that inspired you? Or turned you off?

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