stirrups

I want to tell you about my gynecologist.  However, as the title might suggest, I’m not going to tell you that having my cervix scraped or whatever she does down there makes me feel good.  No, siree.  That does not feel good.  Ever.  But my gynecologist makes me feel good as a person, a patient, a woman in stirrups.

I know an amazing teacher named Kelly Gallagher.  He is practical and inspirational.  And he has the most amazing analogies I’ve ever heard.  Many of them are about baseball, but the one that sticks with me is about his experience with a refrigerator repairman. The short story is that the repairman showed up at Kelly’s house with an apprentice who watched what the repairman was doing, and Kelly likened their relationship to a teacher guiding a student.  It made so much sense to me and is a visual that I use to guide my teaching.  Thanks to Kelly for thinking like a teacher all the time, even while his milk was souring.

I know another amazing woman named Angie.  She’s my reading and writing curriculum coordinator.  Every time I talk to her, she shows me how she sees the world through the eyes of a teacher.  She is always “on,” paying attention to the happenings around her, wondering how she can transfer her observations to her teachers in ways that make sense.  She always makes sense to me, and I walk away from every conversation with her rejuvenated as a teacher.

I have heard writers talk about being extra-perceptive, gathering information they might use in future works.  I think I’m that way as a teacher, like Kelly and Angie, always looking for things that I can use in my classroom or to improve myself as a teacher.  Which brings me back to my gynecologist.

I hate going to my yearly exam.  Who doesn’t?  But my gynecologist makes me feel comfortable every time I sit in that awful room in the paper gown with the sheet over my lap.  First and foremost, she makes me feel like I am her only patient all day.  She looks me in the eye, asks me what I am reading, tells me about her latest book club read, and takes her time with me.  She remembers specific things about me from my last annual exam (I know, it’s written down, but still…) and inquires about how things are going with my anemia or my thyroid or my vitamins or whatever.  Then–and here’s why it’s important to me as a teacher–she ALWAYS tells me about the latest research or a recent article she has read about one of my health issues and gives me advice based on her recently acquired knowledge.  She knows what she is talking about.  She has the resources. She has the newest information.  I know that she knows what she is talking about.  Her diploma hanging on the wall tells me that she is qualified to do what she is doing, but what if she only had that diploma?  What if she never kept up in her field?  Then what?  Is a diploma enough?  Especially when it was issued in the last century?

That’s what I see from so many teachers.  They have their diplomas and their teaching degrees, and they are fully certified by the state to do what they are doing, but is that enough?  Can we take information that we learned in college and use it ten, twenty, or thirty years later to teach in the best way possible?  I don’t think so, but it’s difficult to convince already over-worked teachers that they need to do more reading and research in the area of education. Our students deserve our best teaching, and there are so many resources out there to help us figure out what works, and, most importantly, what doesn’t.  We need to be experts in our profession, not just certified teachers.