This seems like a good time to give you all an update on how POCA Tech is going. It’s amazing to me that so much has happened in just four modules. We are all learning an enormous amount — and not just the students learning point locations, and not just administrators and faculty learning how to run a school. We’re learning, collectively, what acupuncture is. I think we’ll never stop learning what acupuncture is, because there is no end to the mystery of healing. Sorry, I didn’t mean to get woo-woo on you there!
So let’s get back to the nuts and bolts, because that’s what you all hired me for.
1) We have a present for you on POCA Tv. I think most of you know that POCA and POCA Tech are being studied by medical anthropologist Suzanne Morrissey of Whitman College. As part of her research, she is working with documentary filmmaker Patricia Keith to make another documentary about the movement, this time focusing on the school. So Suzanne and Patricia do a lot of filming during POCA Tech modules. We didn’t have a module in January, because it’s our winter break, but we have been offering extra supervised needling practice sessions for the students and we kept that up this month. Because as you all know, POCA Tech cares a LOT about our students developing their technical skills. Suzanne filmed two of our students at one of those practice sessions, and if you’re a POCA member, you can see the results here. Keep in mind that this is what our students look like after only four months of school. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t look like that when I was halfway through my internship. I’ve watched acupuncturists with licenses who didn’t look like that (painful to see). Our strategy to “grow our own” seems to be working gloriously.
2) Do you like getting POCA Tech updates? Including POCA Tech videos? POCA Tech sustainers get updates every month! Right now we have 107 POCA Tech sustainers who make a small donation every month. $5 a month might not sound like much but it’s a HUGE deal to us. We need more sustainers, so please consider getting involved with POCA Tech in this way. And stay tuned for another blog post about the POCA Tech budget in general and how wonderful our sustainers are in particular — coming your way soon.
3) For the 2015 cohort that starts in September, POCA Tech has already received parts of 8 applications and I know of at least 2 more that are on their way. And it’s only the second week in January.
As part of preparing for more prospective applicants, we’re doing some revisions to our website. Gloria’s amazing flow chart has been moved here. On the POCA Tech site, it’s being replaced with the text below. If you know anybody who is interested in POCA Tech, please pass it along to them. And please let me know if you think I missed any important points.
Is POCA Tech right for you?
Ask yourself if the following statements apply to you.
I’m interested in a career, rather than a degree.
If you attend POCA Tech, you will learn the same things that students learn at other acupuncture schools, but in a very different context. One of the reasons that POCA Tech offers a Master’s level certificate rather than a Master’s degree is that we wanted to make sure that everyone understands that POCA Tech is not just a cheaper way to go to acupuncture school: it’s designed for people who want to do a very specific job. Starting with your first classes, you will receive training in the skills you need to be an effective community acupuncturist so that when you graduate you can hit the ground running, either as an employee or as a new clinic owner.
I know what the POCA Cooperative is, what it does, and how it does it. Most importantly, I’m ready to make a commitment to POCA.
POCA Tech is a project of the POCA Cooperative and the culture is the same. If you love POCA, you’ll probably love POCA Tech (and if you don’t, you won’t). And we want students who love POCA because enrollment at POCA Tech requires that you make a commitment to work for or to start up a POCA clinic for at least three years after you graduate. Also, as a student at POCA Tech, you will be spending time with a lot of other POCA members; you’ll get to know your future colleagues because they’ll be your teachers and supervisors and fellow volunteers. Being part of POCA is kind of like being a bird in a flock of birds, if the flock of birds happened to be operating a big, complex piece of machinery. Before you apply to POCA Tech, make sure you consider whether we are your flock and this is your machine and you want to be doing something this beautiful and strange with your life.
I’m self-motivated, self-disciplined, and I have the energy to tackle a demanding program.
We set up POCA Tech in monthly four-day modules so that students could keep the cost of their education down by working while attending school. However, the module system has its own challenges. When it’s on, it’s on! 28 hours of intensive learning packed into 4 days! And when it’s not on, students have to keep themselves in learning mode by studying and doing homework while they’re going about the rest of their lives. It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone.
I’m willing to do the rote memorization that’s required to pass the national certifying exam for acupuncturists…
There is no getting around it: acupuncture education requires a lot of rote memorization of lists and categories and correspondences. In some ways, it’s like learning a language: you absolutely have to put in the time to make flashcards and pore over textbooks and go to study groups and review sessions. Some of it will be boring and repetitive. You have to be motivated enough to do it anyway.
but also, I’m willing to participate in lots of experiential learning, small group work, and classroom presentations.
POCA Tech is not the kind of school where you can hide at the back of the classroom, ever. We believe that how we teach is as important as what we teach. One example is that all modules start with “opening rounds” and end with “closing rounds”, which is also how the POCA Cooperative runs its meetings: everybody checks in about how they’re doing when the module starts, and at the end they check in about how the module went for them. Whenever possible, POCA Tech faculty are facilitating experiential learning exercises as opposed to lecturing in front of the blackboard. POCA Tech is designed to prepare you for working as part of a team, thinking on your feet, interacting with a wide range of people, and engaging creatively with challenging situations. You can’t be passive; you have to be ready to take some risks.
Speaking of risks, I’d like to be part of a new, constantly developing, cutting edge program.
POCA Tech, like the community acupuncture movement itself, is a work in progress. The downside is that we all have to tolerate the messiness, mistakes, reversals, and ambiguity that go along with a creative project on a big scale. The upside is that the process is never boring, and there is a lot of room for students to contribute. If you’re allergic to big, soulless institutions, you might be happy at POCA Tech.
And you might wonder often what’s going to happen next, but you’ll never wonder whether or not your presence matters.
Above all I want to work for marginalized people, and I’ll gladly accept the consequences.
Activist Dorothy Day famously said, “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.” At POCA Tech we are trying to work on our problems by rejecting the system. We believe that much of the physical and mental suffering around us is a result of structural violence. As one community acupuncturist, Whitsitt Goodson, put it, “What you see when you work in the clinic is how the violence of our economic system is written on our patients’ bodies and minds.”
We want to serve the people that our society pushes to the margins, even if that means we join them there. If worldly success and recognition are important to you; if you hate being misunderstood and dismissed (including by other acupuncturists); and particularly, if validation from the system is something you want, this is not the school for you. Community acupuncture is a vocation. It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone. If it’s for you, caring for people on the margins will bring you joy. As Michelle Rivers, another community acupuncturist said, “…you will have made yourself one of the sweetest, most rewarding jobs imaginable. You will be surrounded by people who are suffering – but working on it – and you get to be a witness and even a partner in that every day. It is humbling and awe-inspiring and sweetly funny in different ways every day.”