Posted by: Witch Doctor | April 21, 2012

Hands off! I’m learning….. Again!


The Witch Doctor is interested very generally in how people learn and indeed she has attended the odd conference / course on the subject and even participated in an ongoing journal club on the matter. The Witch Doctor’s views on learning change from time to time, indeed sometimes they do a complete about turn. However one thing she is absolutely certain about is that there is lot of piffle talked about educational strategies. The other thing she is certain about is that when an individual has developed a love of learning, they don’t need much nurturing although they do need time …. the best thing to do is to stand back and let them get on with it! Give then access to books, computers, pencils, paintboxes, pianos, patients, and whatever else they might need. Give them time, shut up, stop diverting them by giving them hurdles to scale and then let them get on with it!

There is a conversation going on over at Bad Med just now that has the potential to become quite heated. It deals with future proposals for general practice training. The Witch Doctor is not a GP even although she did a short stint many many moons ago before the sun came out and introduced lots of hurdles in medical post graduate training in general.

Today the spirit is moving The Witch Doctor to pull out a post from May 2008.


The words below ring true with the witching community because we believe learning at its highest level requires freedom and a dash of anarchy.

“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”

“Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them.”

“To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.”


We witches relax a bit by flying around committees looking for an opportunity to cast our Blue Bottle Spells.

But we also are interested to learn from The Humankind, because on occasion we find they talk a little sense. So, we also keep a close eye on all the conferences and meetings going on, and often gatecrash them. We do this very unobtrusively, of course, by remaining invisible. The only giveaway is the gentle Whoosh of The Broomstick as we arrive. You should always listen for this at any meetings you attend. We witches can make The Broomsticks invisible but have never mastered the art of making them completely silent.

Sometimes, we become so interested in what is going on that we want to put in our tuppence worth. When this happens, we disguise ourselves as one of The Humankind and people chatter away to us, never suspecting, of course, that they are conversing with a witch.


The Witch Doctor remembers one such occasion many years ago. It was a weekend course on education. It was organised in a university through the Faculty of Medicine by one particular individual who had an interest in undergraduate and postgraduate education. The course was not just about educating doctors. It was about how people learn. It covered learning at its most basic (rote learning), to problem solving, right through the various stages to the highest level of learning – the mind-set of the genius. And fascinating stuff it was too! So fascinating in fact, that The Witch Doctor decided to become visible in order to participate the following day by casting The Disguise-a-Witch spell.


So on the Sunday, The Witch Doctor mingled with the participants and even contributed a few witch thoughts that doubtless were considered rather bizarre by The Humankind.

The Witch Doctor (disguised) decided to go over and talk to “The Organiser” at the coffee break. This is, very, very roughly, was the gist of what he said.

“Some people might argue that if highly intelligent, well motivated individuals who, in addition to their intelligence have been self disciplined enough to collect a fistful of straight A grades in one go, then training them in medicine is easy.

Once they have learned their “times tables” of medicine during their undergraduate years, postgraduate training will easily fall into place by giving each young doctor a list of things they need to know and a list of procedures they need to be able to do. All doors must be left wide open for them. This is a very important part. Thereafter, there should be masterly inactivity by those “educating” them. Left alone, these young doctors in their different ways will train themselves and as they do so, many will move on to the very highest levels of learning. If permitted, they will become the geniuses of tomorrow”

The Organiser asked what I thought of that.

I agreed.

Because that is how we witches learn.

The Organiser was little known then.

But later, he became renowned in his areas of expertise (he had several).

The Organiser brought people together, motivated them, and then – hands off. He left them alone to get on with it.

And they did.

The Organiser, himself, was a very high level learner.

You will all have heard of him.

All of you.

But we witches never reveal those we meet up with when we cast our “Disguise-a-Witch” spell.


redapple.jpg a red apple ……………………

The Witch Doctor – Link to a random page





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  1. On the subject of lessons and learning, I believe that this blogpost should be prescribed reading for all and future doctors – or

    • Patients are the teachers of any clinician at every stage in his/her career. Thanks for the link and for highlighting this blog.

      Pain is not seen, heard or felt by those not experiencing it and it requires time and empathy and even imagination to appreciate the effect it can have even on the minutiae of another individual’s life. The way medicine is being practised nowadays no longer acknowledges that the clinician learns more from spending time with patients than from actor-patients, plastic mannikins, conferences, committees, protocols, guidelines, pathways, journeys and the numerous and ridiculous bits of paper they have to fill in recording their personal thoughts justifying themselves to others.

      The medical profession is losing it’s way by succumbing to the dictats of governments and committees, none of which will teach empathy but nevertheless there are a lot of good doctors out there. They need to get their act together. I suspect this is the main reason that some doctors take to blogging.

  2. Oh come on WD and tell us who the Organiser is. I’ve been lurking for a couple of days to see if you’ll tell. Give us a clue..

  3. Nope, Julie, no clue or you would guess. You are good at guessing. Even My Black Cat has been sworn to secrecy.

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