What does it mean to pass?

I’ve been reflecting recently on the effect passing or gaining a qualification has on our work. Often we aim for that one passing grade – but is this all we need?

Quite a few years ago now, the decision to change my career and study at the Northern Institute of Massage fitted in with having a new family. It enabled me to learn from home, and each section of study was grouped into lessons of 4 separate areas. These were completed as home study, often having to produce between 4/5000 words. There were 12 lessons in total, and a 40 question final paper.

In the beginning these were based in anatomy and physiology, and as you progressed these developed into technique and assessment protocol.

The lessons were layered to give you a deeper understanding of the human body, and the effect and changes you could have when working with a patient.

When you are changing your career you become focused on passing the course, gaining that qualification; we see this as confirmation that we will make a great therapist.

However our papers were marked by a remarkable man called Mr Childs. We never meet him, but you would develop a connection to him regardless through his annotations.

As the course went on, Mr Childs’ comments were so supportive and clear, honest yet truthful, that he began to feel like a friend and mentor..

My favourite comments:

“I recognise your kindness, your astuteness and your marked suitability for this course and your new career.” “You have a lovely sense of humour.” “Never mind the dyslexia, this is a training in which you succeed because of cultivated hands.” I think all our journeys are marked by remarkable teachers; he was one of them for me.

As the year went by the studying was constant, as was the hands on practice.

As I started to practice on family and friends, I began to learn everyone feels different, in terms of muscle structure, but my most important lesson was recognising how everyone is unique and this affects our physiology and capacity to heal in ways that are hard to describe. I quickly learnt that meeting each person with the same energy and outlook resulted in much better progress.

Each set of papers came back,  and I was gaining better and better marks.

I went in to my final weekend feeling quietly confident, probably the first time in my life I had felt like this when presented with a test! There was 20 question oral exam and a practical massage assessment with Ken Woodward. I passed with flying colours, with Mr Childs and Mr Woodward both agreeing I was safe to treat people.

As I finally passed the course, I released that this day this was a ‘green light’ to a lifetime of learning. Whilst on paper I was now a physiotherapist, my journey into learning about helping people had only just begun. Passing was the door to a lifetime of curiosity, changing, developing and questioning theories and methods.

The other issue that came to light was whilst we all appeared successful, the real success was if you were invited back to the Institute to join the advanced study group. It was those of us that were humble, curious, kind, and have the good opinion of Mr Childs that were invited back. For me this was my pass, the fact that someone saw my hands, had read my thoughts and thought I had potential.

I feel very grateful to these two mentors for their commitment and kind honest values; the fact that at the end of the day it was always about the quality of our touch – was it respectful, kind and of the right intent? This is something I’ve always kept with me, in my practice and in my training.

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