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Graduate School

Clinical Teaching Award: Eboni Harris

Eboni Harris
Clinical associate professor 
College of Nursing 
Ph.D. in Nursing, University of South Carolina, 2017  
2021 Clinical Practice Teaching Award  

A common theme in nursing and health care professions is that you learn by being scared or being intimidated. In fact, I think that impedes learning. It was important to me to have professors who were willing to let us make mistakes — not fatal mistakes, but ones that help us to see areas for improvement. Making a friendly learning environment is something that I took with me after I graduated from USC. And when I started teaching, I wanted to present that same measure to my students as well.  

We still do have a lot of traditional lectures, but I find that the case-based learning is an opportunity to really engage students and get them to share their ideas on how they think about things. It also helps inspire new ways of doing things that aren’t wrong, but not the way that I was thinking of it as an expert.  

As much as we're supposed to be teaching students, I think students end up teaching us a lot of times. I'm not super old, but I also think that my students help keep me young and up to date on things that are going on in in the world and things that may be more relatable to their age group or generation that I don't really understand.  

What I've learned from my students is to always be humble and always be kind. They have a lot to learn and sometimes they have had humbling experiences in their educational careers. The ones that get admitted (to the nursing program) are really smart, but they have learned that they still have a lot to learn. I've been a nurse and a nurse practitioner for a long time. But I think that willingness to say ‘I still have a lot to learn and I'm still going to try to learn’ has helped me be a better educator. 

I think the most impactful experiences with former students have been when students have come back or sent me an email or find me on social media and say something to the effect of, ‘I'm going back to school again. You inspired me to go back and become a nurse practitioner or go back and get my Ph.D, because I really want to teach you, just like you do.’ Or they say that something I said in the classroom helps them every day as a nurse.’ And those are the most rewarding because I didn't even realize I made an impression on that student. 

The challenge in teaching is making sure you’re continuing to stay on top of what's new and what's coming up the pipe, because it's very easy to get settled into something like, “OK, this is my lecture for heart disease.’ You have to always learn and keep up with what's new and what's changing within your profession. 

The biggest piece of advice I’d give to new teachers is to know who you are and not try to change because you think your students want a specific kind of person or professor. So, focus on the things that you really do know and then be OK with saying what you don't know. I wish somebody had told me that when I first started. If I knew from the very beginning that it was OK to just say, ‘I don't know,’ that that would have saved me a lot of heartache. 

Read the full story here.

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