Sunday, January 09, 2011

Dentistry and Teaching

I had a little bit of oral surgery during our week off. I'm in awe of the surgeon's skill, efficiency and "chairside" manner. He knew exactly what to do and didn't waste a minute getting right down to his work. He documented every step with photos so that he would leave nothing to memory or guesswork. He told me what to expect in the week after surgery. My family dentist forwarded the pictures (I'll spare you) and the surgeon's report, which included phrases like, "pedunculated gingival lesion in the interproximal papilla." The surgeon never used language like that when he was talking to me.

What does all of this have to do with teaching 4th grade? Just that if my oral surgeon could watch me at work in my classroom, I hope that he would be equally impressed with my skill, efficiency, and "deskside" manner.

I hope he would appreciate the number of decisions I make and small teaching moments I experience in a day (or even an hour). Last week he could have seen me move from Italy's invasion of Albania in WWII to facts about omnivores to the Indiana Pacers to the life cycle of the koala during reading workshop. He could have seen me move from chemical reactions, to words in context in a read aloud, to compatible numbers in estimating division, to nonfiction text structures. All in the course of a day of teaching, all without missing a beat. (It was a good day!)

I hope he would appreciate the variety of ways I document my teaching and student learning. I, too, use photos, along with voice memos, video, charts on clipboards, sticky notes, and anchor charts on the SmartBoard and chart paper.

And I hope he would appreciate the lack of "education-ese" in the conference I had with a parent after school on Friday. (And the parallel between the way he worked me in to get that surgery done during break and the way I stayed late on a Friday so that the parent, student and I could get a fresh start next week.)

My gum is healing nicely -- the last of the stitches fell out yesterday. And now I need to go grade some papers and craft some lesson plans for the week ahead.


  1. Great analogy, Mary Lee. I am certain that your oral surgeon would be most impressed. I know I am!

  2. What a fun post to read--well said! I wish the world could see what we do and how well we do it. Teachers would surely be as respected as dentists, if only they could see us in action.

  3. I know that your surgeon would be in awe of you, too, Mary Lee. The best pros make everything look effortless, as they hide the five-syllable words. Glad you're on the mend!

  4. Anonymous4:05 PM

    Mary Lee --
    Thanks for sharing this comparison. It is so true. Hope your recovery has been speedy + painless.

  5. Great post! I am often impressed with the ease grace of a great teacher. I often wonder if others see this too, or does it take the eye of fellow educator?

  6. Well said, Mary Lee. Well said. I hope my daughter has a fourth grade teacher like you in her future!


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