How to Make Teaching Work Ethics Interesting

Jul 18, 2023

Hey there! It’s Chad, and I recently had a fantastic discussion with a group of beautiful faculty members at WSU Tech, led by the amazing Joyce. During our conversation, Joyce posed an interesting question: How do we make ethics more interesting? In response, I want to share with you a concrete exercise that can add excitement to any topic, even the ones that might initially seem a little meh. This exercise can be framed in multiple ways to engage participants and spark insightful discussions. So, let’s dive in and explore this intriguing approach to making ethics captivating.

The Train Station Greetings Exercise

I first encountered this exercise under the name “Train Station Greetings” or “Elevator Air.” The original format involved a group of people standing in a circle, and the facilitator instructed them to greet each other in different ways. Let me walk you through the exercise:

Round One: Rushing through Greetings

In the first round, participants are asked to greet as many people as possible in the room as if they are in a hurry and have more important things to do. This mimics the behavior of someone quickly passing by without giving much attention to others. Handshakes are brief, and the atmosphere is slightly tense as everyone rushes through the greetings.

Round Two: Greeting Long-Term Friends

The second round takes a completely different approach. Participants are now asked to greet each other as if they have just stepped off a train in a strange city and, by coincidence, found one of their absolute best friends waiting to greet them. This scenario encourages warmth, enthusiasm, and genuine interest in the other person. The greetings are more heartfelt and relaxed, creating a positive atmosphere.

Applying the Exercise to Real-Life Scenarios

As Joyce was talking,, I couldn’t help but think about how this exercise could be utilized in various settings, especially when discussing better job performance or interpersonal dynamics in healthcare. Here’s how you could apply it in your classes:

Exercise 1: Greeting Patients as CNAs

In a CNA course, you can ask students to greet each other as if they were patients and the student portraying the CNA is overwhelmed with a busy schedule. This simulates a scenario where the CNA might feel pressed for time and has a lot on their plate.

Exercise 2: Treating Patients as the Most Important People

In the second exercise, students continue greeting each other as patients, but this time, the CNAs should treat them as the most important people on the planet. In just a few seconds, each student should genuinely convey warmth and appreciation for the “patient,” making them feel valued and respected.

Encouraging Participation and Reflection

To make the exercises even more impactful, consider adding elements that encourage participation and reflection:

Time the Interactions

In healthcare, we often feel rushed and may resort to treating patients as objects to save time. In your demonstration, Sheila, you could give students stopwatches or have them use their phones to time each interaction. This way, they can see that showing empathy and care doesn’t necessarily take more time.

Debriefing and Discussing

After each round of the exercise, debrief with the students. Encourage them to share their experiences, emotions, and observations. Discuss the differences they noticed between the two approaches and how it made them feel as both the “busy” and “caring” parties.

The Power of Creating Positive Dynamics

To make work ethics more engaging, it’s crucial to create positive dynamics in our interactions. As educators and professionals, we have the opportunity to foster a culture of respect, empathy, and genuine connection. By using exercises like Train Station Greetings, we can illustrate the impact of our behavior on others and emphasize the importance of treating people as humans, not objects.

So, there you have it! A simple yet powerful exercise that can transform how we approach ethics and interpersonal dynamics. By incorporating this exercise into your classes or workplace, you can encourage meaningful conversations, enhance empathy, and promote a more positive and engaging environment.

Remember, it doesn’t take much time to show genuine care and consideration for others. Let’s strive to create lasting connections and foster a culture of respect and empathy in everything we do. Have a fantastic day, and let’s continue making ethics fun and meaningful!