Learning has to be fun!

When I was in seventh grade, I loved to play the violin. It wasn't so much that I dedicated my life to music; I just enjoyed the process of learning it.

Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"

"Juan."

"Juan who?"

"Juan of these days staff training will be fun."

When I was in seventh grade, I loved to play the violin. It wasn't so much that I dedicated my life to music; I just enjoyed the process of learning it. The key to it all was Miss Regans, my violin teacher and orchestra leader. She made learning fun because of her upbeat personality and the fun music she let us play. Twice a year, our orchestra gave a concert. Miss Regans made the boys wear white shirts, black clip-on bow ties, and crew cuts. We looked like accountants. The girls looked like dolls, with their hair pulled back, their miniature prom dresses, and their light, sweet fragrances. It was at those concerts that I fell in love with Juliet Juntoli, whose right thigh would press against mine during energetic crescendos. Oh, how I loved orchestra!

Dentistry can learn a lesson from Miss Regans - learning has to be fun! When learning is fun, information more easily passes from short- to long-term memory. In the absence of fun, the educational process is inefficient and easy to resist. When new information is blended with fun, learning and growth happens.

I just had a very pleasant educational experience that sets a great example of how to make learning fun. I attended Dr. Kit Weathers' two-day, hands-on workshop on endodontics - EndoMagic Root Camp (www.endomagic.com). Now if there ever was a topic that could be tedious to learn, it would have to be endodontics! Instead, I witnessed over 40 dentists go shoulder-to-shoulder, instrumenting canals and loving every minute of it! Kit Weathers and his teaching team combine magic, music, and motivational stories, along with a clear vision that makes students the heroes. The endomagic experience was perfectly summed up by Dr. Lloyd Jerome from Scotland. "This is fun!" he said, beaming over a digital image of a perfectly instrumented and filled mandibular first molar that he completed in under 45 minutes. Kit Weathers understands that for his students to produce great results, they need the energy of a stimulating environment, a sense of community that fosters teamwork, and a clarity of vision that unclutters the learning process.

Like it or not, every staff meeting is a continuing-education workshop and, most of the time, you're the teacher. What makes learning fun in continuing education are the same things that make it easy for your staff to learn and grow in the dental office - energy, community, and clarity.

Create energy in staff training by using music, color, light, pictures, and creative room arrangement. Boost the environmental energy and your message will land on alert minds.

Deepen the sense of community during your staff training by encouraging each of your staff members to contribute in a unique way. Someone brings food, another chooses the music, and still another tells a story. It's important that everyone makes a contribution, no matter how small, and that each contribution be reinforced and acknowledged. Contr ibution leads to a sense of belonging, which is the path to teamwork.

Bring clarity to your staff training by focusing on fewer rather than more topics. Too much information works against the learning process. It's much better to train more deeply on a few topics than to hit on the tips of many issues. Our industry has a bias for overloading during continuing education. How much energy do you have after sitting through a 20-slide carousel, all-day lecture? Not much, but yet the overload continues, and too many dentists bring the same mistakes into their office.

If Miss Regans were a dentist, she'd make sure her staffers were having fun while rehearsing their roles and learning their parts. And every day would be a concert, where her staff would perform with energy and a sense of community and clarity. We perform in the same way we learn. Provide your staff with a fun environment in which to grow and they'll do the same for your patients!

Dr. Homoly coaches dental teams to implement reconstructive dentistry through his continuing-education workshops, private consulting, and seminars. This column is an excerpt from his new book, Isn't It Wonderful When Patients Say Yes? - Case Acceptance for Complete Dentistry. Dr. Homoly can be reached at (704) 342-4900 or via e-mail at phomoly@mindspring.com. Visit his Web site at www.paulhomoly.com.

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